Thursday, August 16, 2012

Irma Thomas' The Story of My Life

In addition to posting current reviews of recordings, you know I also post reviews I have written for publications for five and more years ago. Today’s review is from 15 years ago and appeared in the April 1997 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 220 and likely was also published in the DC Blues Calendar which I edited for the DC Blues Society for nearly 20 years. I noted that I have not posted any of my Irma Thomas reviews, so this is in part to rectify that. Irma’s recording career has slowed down in recent years but the Soul Queen of New Orleans remains a national treasure. 

For her seventh album for the Rounder label, The Story of My Life, Irma Thomas is backed by a stunning band of Crescent City stalwarts - bassist George Porter, drummer Raymond Weber, and pianist David Torkanowsky, along with guitarist Michael Toles plus horns and backing vocal choruses on several selections. Scott Billington who produced this one with Thomas, arranged for the songwriting team of Dan Penn, Jonnie Barnett and Carson Whitsett to contribute some songs, and there is new (or at least unfamiliar) material from Dawn Thomas, Sarah Brown and Lisa Mednick, and Allen Toussaint before Thomas closes with a very strong reading of Aretha’s recording of Dr. Feelgood.

The album has its share of Crescent City grooves on the opening funked up blues, No Use Talking, and the second line rhythm underlying her boost of independence, I Won’t Cry For You (from the afore-mentioned trio of Penn, Barnett and Whitsett). Dawn Thomas’ song, which gives the album its title, is a more straight-forward modern R&B ballad, while Love Don’t Get No Better Than This is an uptempo celebration of romance that Thomas delivers with an assurance that her decades of performing have given her. This is also evident on her soulful delivery of the mournful Hold Me While I Cry, which has a tasty tenor sax break from Charles Elam III, who also duets her on the ballad Get Here.

The liner notes speak about Thomas’ frustration with being treated as a oldies act due to her classic songs from the early sixties, but this is simply the latest Rounder recording that illustrates just how wonderful a vocalist she is, and the mix of blues, New Orleans, soul and some pop elements make for a most delicious musical stew.

I likely received a review copy from Rounder back in 1997. This should still be relatively easy to find. While not from this album, here is Irma singing one of the songs she is known for, even if many more know the Rolling Stones version. 

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