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Marion James - Northside Soul

EllerSoul Records

 15 songs; 59:04 minutes

Styles: Gospel-Influenced Blues and Soul

To “testify,” whether in court, church, or the presence of company, means to proclaim that something is true. On “Northside Soul,” to be released on June 26th of this year, North Nashville veteran Marion James testifies that gospel-influenced blues and soul survive with a vengeance in the 21st century! Marion has been making records since 1966 when her debut single, “That’s My Man,” made the top ten on the Billboard charts. After a long hiatus in the 1980s, she returned in the early ‘90s with the southern-soul-drenched “Marion James and the Hypnotics.” “Northside Soul” was recorded over five days at Montrose Recording on the “Northside” of Richmond. Here are three out of fifteen tracks (seven originals and eight covers) that proclaim Marion James’ clear vocal and songwriting prowess:

Track 01: “I Fell”--Rarely have piano and guitar combined to evoke such a smoothly-powerful atmosphere as on the first selection of this album! Its theme is familiar: “I fell flat on my face when I fell for you!” However, the fresh and gritty realism of “I Fell” infuse new life into this tale of regret. It’s the perfect song for a relaxing evening at a nightclub, or taking your partner for a spin around the dance floor at home.

Track 03: “Corrupted World”--Co-written by Marion James and R. Fleming, listeners can imagine soft rain falling along with the mournful piano intro. This song is beautiful yet insidious, because its lyrics cut like a knife: “Parents don’t take time to discipline their children. Now we’ve got little gangs buying guns and killing…This world is corrupted, and we’d better give a damn.” The pervasive choral refrain of “It’s so corrupted!” throughout this five-minute polemic drums its moral into the ears and minds of blues fans everywhere. “Corrupted World” is simultaneously hot as a chili pepper and cold as ice.

Track 07: “Blues Recipe”--With tongue firmly in cheek, Marion James issues a sly rebuke to all of her rival musicians: “Everybody want to sing and play the blues. I’m not going to worry about you wannabes. Competition doesn’t bother me--I’ve got the blues recipe. A wannabe is everywhere; the real deal catches hell getting there….” Not only is this the most traditional blues number on this album, but also the best.

One might marvel at how Marion James’ vocals can be so understated yet so magnificent at the same time. Perhaps her secret lies in the fact that she doesn’t have to belt out the lyrics to her songs in order for them all to pack a wallop. Sit back, relax, and enjoy. From beginning to end, “Northside Soul” testifies that classic blues and soul never go out of style!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 32 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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