Florida based singer Lauren Mitchell went out to the West Coast to record this new release of hers where she got Tony Braunagel to produce this and drum on it. Some of Tony's associates with the Phantom Blues Band are here as well including Johnny Lee Schell on guitar, Joe Sublett on saxophone, and Darrell Leonard on their trumpet along with Reggie McBride on bass, Jim Pugh on keyboards and Lennie Castro on percussion.
The recording has a mix of choice covers and idiomatic originals that showcase her very strong singing, starting with a tough rendition of an Etta James deep soul recording, "(I Don't Need Nobody To Tell Me) How To Treat My Man." She has a husky voice like James which she employs in a nuanced fashion. She can belt out a song with authority and without screaming or sounding shrill. It is followed by the sweet soul groove of her original "Soul Music" with its beach music groove as she sings about no other man can satisfy her and hear that soul music like her daddy used to play. The joy in her vocal is supported by the excellent backing and punching horns. The title track has a swampy soul feel followed by her strong, sultry take of another song associated with Etta James, "Jump Into My Fire."
With Schell's bluesy guitar and Pugh's piano, she ably tackles an Aretha soul-blues, "Good To Me As I Am To You," as well as an early Bettye Lavette recording "Stand Up Like a Man." Contrasting her tough vocals on those tunes, she displays a tender side on the ballad "Today." There is plenty of sass in her revival of Diana Ross' "I Ain't Been (Licked Yet)," followed by the sensuous reworking Betty Davis' "Anti-Love Song," with backing adapted from Davis' original. A jaunty gospel performance, "Bridge of Dreams," is followed by an original lament, "Lead Me On," that sounds like it might have come out of Muscle Shoals decades ago.
The album closes with "Brown Liquor," with a funky groove and a tough lyric about waking up in Vegas with a hangover and a man in her bed as she does not remember anything after that Maker's Mark. Her forceful, vocal is backed by the terrific studio band closing this very impressive CD of soul with a blues touch.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 371), although a few typos in the published review have been corrected. Here she is seen performing "Soul Music" from this CD.