Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Jackie Payne I Saw The Blues

It has been too long since most of us have heard from Jackie Payne, which is remedied by a new CD on Blue Dot Records, "I Saw The Blues." Payne first came into prominence with a recording on Jetstream led to him joining the Stax Revue. Moving to the West Coast he was featured with Johnny Otis for 15 years. Then he recorded for JSP before starting a partnership with Steve Edmondson which led to three more terrific recordings and a Blues Music Award for Soul Blues Album of the year. Now, nearly a decade later, he returns with this soul blues gem recorded and mixed by Kid Andersen who also plays as part of backing group that includes guitarist Anthony Paule, keyboardists Lorenzo Farrell and Bob Welsh, harmonica player Aki Kumar, trombonist Ed Early; trumpeter Jeff Lewis; and tenor saxophonists Frankie Ramos, Jack Sanford and Eric Spaulding.

Payne contributed six originals for a terrific urban blues recording with a heavy dose of Texas and Muscle Shoals in feel. Think about those terrific recordings Payne made with Steve Edmondson, those by Frankie Lee or the stunning Frank Bey-Anthony Paule recordings. Payne was in terrific voice when he made these sides showing little evidence of having aged since he first recorded decades ago. The brassy backing and Welsh's piano sets the mood for Payne's delivery on "Back To Normal," a moody number from J Barnett, C. Whitsett and Dan Penn as he displays his power and vocal dynamics and Andersen takes a crisp solo break. The title song by Payne has autobiographical references with Payne singing about being born in Georgia and in New Orleans saw the blues again. Farrell and Kumar taking solo breaks here. Payne's woman acts real strange on "Full Moon Blues," a Payne-Paule original with Paule adding slide guitar along with Kumar's harmonica to provide a down home feel.

"When the Blues Comes Knockin'" is a Texas to West Coast shuffle with Andersen taking the guitar lead as Payne warns listeners that the blues will try to persuade you he is your best friend. Billy Ray Charles' "Wife, Woman, Hootchie" is a terrific Malaco styled blues that sounds like it was recorded in Muscle Shoals, while "Kicking Back With the Blues" has a laid back groove with Paule on the guitar lead while Early's trombone is spotlighted on a superb performance. "Six Million Dollar Man" is a tough blues with Payne shouting that he has love, more than one can stand, and "if love was money, I would be a Six Million Dollar Man." I would not be surprised to see this number covered by other singers, but they would have to go far to come close to Payne's original. "Rock Me With a Steady Roll" is a superb slow blues suggestive of the Pete Johnson-Big Joe Turner classic "Cherry Red," with more fine down-in-the-alley trombone as well a terrific tenor sax solo from Eric Spaulding.

"I Saw the Blues" closes with a superb extended rendition of Ollie Nightingale's hit "I'll Drink Your Bathwater Baby," concluding an hour's worth of varied blues and soul, superbly sung and terrifically played. This is one of the best recent blues recordings this writer has heard. Jackie suffered a major stroke in 2014 which held up production and release of this recording, and while recovering is still unable to sing. We wish him well and a benefit will be held for him at Biscuit & Blues in San Francisco on May 31. I am sure there will be ways for those who cannot make it there can support him.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the May-June Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 360).  Here is Jackie singing with Steve Edmondson some years ago.

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