(Photos Jim Allen; CD cover photo Jim Allen; CD cover design Joanie Dakai)
On my way to see the fabulous duo, Blue Mother Tupelo, at Mama Rue’s Blues Garden in Pawleys Island last week, I stopped off to visit with singer/songwriter Lesa Hudson, so we could talk about her new solo recording, her work with Rick Strickland Band and her plans for the future.
I’ve known Lesa for a couple years and have always considered her to be pretty laid back and mellow. During this visit, though, I was struck by just how driven she is.
Much like her bandmate, Rick Strickland, she’s driven to write, to create.
“I’m a songwriter first. I’m always writing. In fact, I’d like Rick to produce a
Praise and Worship album for me. I already have the songs for it.”
Hudson grew up in Darlington, S.C. as part of a musical family, with church as its centerpiece. Playing piano since the age of six, her first singing “job” was with a trio at church. N’Accord was very successful and traveled throughout South Carolina. She still sings with the group when time and opportunity allow.
She went on to front her own Lesa Hudson Band, a larger contemporary Christian group. She produces and performs several Christian-based showcases, and has also performed with the classic rock band, 3 Day Funk with Keith Hamrick (formerly with Billy Joe Royal and the Atlanta Rhythm Section).
Lesa tells me she’s been writing and composing for about 15 years. (“I still have my doodle sheets in a folder somewhere.”) Her very first completed composition was “Lukewarm Christian,” written and produced in 2003. It went to No. 8 on the Power Source 100 chart. “I was thinking about my life and where I wanted to be. I didn’t want my faith to take a back seat …” she explains.
She still leads a contemporary worship service in Darlington, but her current position as lead vocalist and keyboard player with the Rick Strickland Band takes up the bulk of her time.
“Rick Strickland is an incredible talent, and I don’t know if the world really understands that,” she tells me candidly. “From day one, he has been the person I could rely on and trust. We think the same way about music.
“When I write a song, it starts with a feeling … I’m just not passionate about singing covers,” she tries to explain.
This particular thread refers to the fact that so many deejays and booking agents prefer bands and singers who perform cover tunes.
“I’ve never really taken the easy road,” she laughs. “And I guess this is one of those times. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I’d just rather not play covers.”
Happily, the Rick Strickland Band is making a name for itself playing Strickland, and now Hudson, originals.
Tunes like “Something Smooth” (Rick Strickland/ 2004), “So Do I” (Rick Strickland/2008) and now “When You Look At Me” (Lesa Hudson/2010), the immensely popular Hudson/Strickland duet on Sweet Wonderful You, have been huge hits with fans and deejays alike.
Sweet Wonderful You is Lesa’s second solo project. According to the artist, the ten original songs each tell a story about love and being thankful for the people you love. Hudson either wrote or co-wrote eight, with the other two penned by Rick Strickland.
“The current breakaway hit,” she says, “seems to be the duet with Rick, “When You Look at Me.” I intended for this song to take people back to the moment they fell in love … when they weren’t quite sure the other person felt the same way … I shared it with Rick and he loved it. He said it had to be on the project.
“Track two, ‘Can’t Help Lovin’ On You,’ is a little different for me. I love the bluesy, laid back feel. It’s a little more romantic. It was a way to stretch my songwriting and my vocals.
“On the title track, ‘Sweet Wonderful You,’ I love the harmony vocals by Debbie Anderson … and for the whole CD … the amazing keyboards from Art Benton and incredible guitar work of Rick Strickland.”
The truth is, although I think Lesa comes alive when she’s under the Rick Strickland spell, she was making a name for herself long before they met.
A few years ago, one Chamber of Commerce prez said, “It wasn’t just fireworks that sparkled and lit up the sky at the July 4th Hartsville Family Fireworks Festival. It was also Lesa Hudson and her band who kicked off the holiday event with a bang!”
Kevin Stokes, songwriter for G3 Productions in Nashville, said, “Lesa’s sound is progressive and honest. A lot of times, artists deny their own passions creatively in order to squeeze into a marketplace that’s already crowded with artists doing the same thing. Taking a different road may seem like a harder route, but applaud Lesa for coming up with a sound that is as commercial as it is unique …”
David Wade agrees. He has recently signed both Lesa Hudson and Rick Strickland (as solo artists) to his Shanty’s Records label. Wade will be booking the two artists and promoting them on radio in some expanded markets.
“I don’t want to put myself in a box. I want to write a song, express myself and create music the way it comes to me.”
Lesa Hudson is definitely driven. In a laid back kind of way.
CD Tracks: 1. Only You (Lesa Hudson); 2. Can’t Help Lovin’ On You (Lesa Hudson); 3. Falling For You (Lesa Hudson); 4. Baby Baby (Lesa Hudson & Rick Strickland); 5. When You Look at Me (Lesa Hudson); 6. Win My Heart (Lesa Hudson & Rick Strickland); 7. Try (Rick Strickland); 8. You Make the Good Times Better (Lesa Hudson); 9.Just To Wake Up Next To You (Rick Strickland); 10. Sweet Wonderful You (Lesa Hudson).
Players on Sweet Wonderful You include Lesa Hudson (lead & background vocals, keyboards); Rick Strickland (lead & background vocals; guitar, bass & drum programming/producer); Art Benton (keyboard); Debbie Anderson (background vocals).
What happened? Did the South head south for the winter? The new year’s blustery entrance and record deep freeze are taking their toll on me. I need some heat.
I’m hungry for somethin’ soulful to warm my innards and Deep Fried Southern Style, the 2010 compilation CD from Shanty’s Records more than satisfies my appetite for smokey old tunes, hot guitar licks and lip-smackin’ vocals. The 21-track disc is a tasty combination of soul-blues, R&B and shag tunes. So whether you’re fixin’ to sit back and enjoy it by yourself or invite a mess of folks over to dance and carry on, get yourself some Southern Style.
Track one is the soulful “A Love To Call Mine” by Johnnie Taylor. Penned by Paul Taylor, it’s from Taylor’s This Is Your Night album (Malaco Records 1984), and a sweet way to open the album. Track two is another tasty morsel, this time by Oscar Toney Jr., “No More Heartaches,” from his album, Sundazed (Bob Grady Records 2001).
Track three is “Katrina Katrina,” (think “Corina Corina”) by blues piano legend Henry Gray, from his Times Are Gettin’ Hard CD (Lucky Cat Records 2009). After 50 or 60 years, you think it might start to get stale, but Henry’s as real as ever.
Next on the menu is “Memphis Women & Chicken,” the classic from T. Graham Brown’s T. Brown Graham Live (Aspirion Records 2004). This soul-country tune was written by Gary Nicholson, Dan Penn and Donnie Fritts.
I have to confess here, that I don’t often enjoy compilation albums. I find them disjointed and without a concept.
Not this one.
Producer David Wade, who is also the owner of Shanty’s Records, has done a fine job of selecting tunes. The fledgling label, which he founded in 2010, is based
on the premise of “bringing back the songs and artists that have slipped through the cracks, or have been forgotten along the way.”
One of my favorite tunes on the disc is the soulful “Can’t Tear Myself Away” by Jamaican born singer/songwriter Ruby Turner from her 2005 R&B release So Amazing.
Burlington, N.C.’s Holiday Band is represented with another Dan Penn tune, “I’m Your Puppet,” originally performed by James and Bobby Purify in 1966 and later Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrill.
Two tracks from the Roadrunners are also included. Track 11 is “Let the Boogie Woogie Roll” written by Nugetre, Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler; and track 18, “Devil With a Blue Dress On,” made famous by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels. Vocals on these two are by the late great Earl Gaines. On piano is Jay Spell, who sadly just passed away over New Year’s.
T. Graham Brown is back with his “Brilliant Conversationalist.” This is the original title track from his second album for Capitol Records (1987).
Mark Roberts & Breeze gives us “The Way You Love Me” and a rockin’ version of the 1997 Wayne Toups tune “Love Me As Hard As You Hurt Me.” The latter is also on his Cover To Cover album (Shanty’s Records 2010).
From Rickey Godfrey comes “G-Man,” written back in the 80s by Rickey’s brother and sister-in-law, Ronnie Godfrey and Kim Morrison (they’re also singing backup). A little trivia for you, this tune was featured for a bit on G. Gordon Liddy’s Radio America show in the late 90s.
Holly Singletary-Artis, well known throughout the Carolinas as one of the high-energy vocalists in the now defunct Sammy O’Banion & Mardi Gras, does a beautiful job on Carlene Carter’s “Come Here You.”
Deep Fried Southern Style is a deliciously rich music gumbo blending all my favorite ingredients – blues, R&B and soul. I wanted to know how David Wade developed his taste in music.
A deejay since the early seventies, he tells me his first gig was with the Air Force. From there, he went to CBS radio, where he hosted the syndicated Salty Dawg Blues & Review Show.
“I have been fortunate to have been able to deejay all over the world – on military bases, at American Embassy functions, state functions and more. I spent 21 years in the Air Force, retiring in 1989. Throughout my military career, I was able to keep playing music.
“I also owned Shanty’s Beach & Blues Club in Carolina Beach, N.C., which was nominated for a Cammy is first year of being opened. Shaggin’ Time was also nominated for Internet Radio Show of the Year the same year – 2009.”
Additional tracks on Deep Fried Southern Style are “Swanee River Rock” written by Ray Charles and performed by Manny Lloyd of Soul Posse; “Airtight Alibi,” another Johnnie Taylor original; “Broken Hearted Melody,” by Eliza (a hit for Sarah Vaughn back in 1959); “Stop Me From Starting This Feeling” by Clinton Horton of the Magnificents; “More Love,” a Smokey Robinson tune sung superbly by Holly Singletary-Artis; “Bubba White’s” by Charleston, S.C.’s Rick Strickland from his 2008 release Island Soul; and “Actions Speak Louder Than Words” by Men of Distinction.
Closing out the CD is the bluesy “You Do Me Wrong” by DieDra from Living the Bluz (RuffPro Records 2010) . That’s her husband Keithan Ruff wailing on the guitar and playing just about everything else on the track, too. I expect you’ll savor Deep Fried Southern Style down to this last tasty bite. I sure did.
Additional album credits: sequencing Midi, Richard Robertson and Terry Nash; engineering, J.K. Loftin/Cape Fear Studios.
Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains The Same: Expanded Reissue. This beats the pants off the original double LP. Some of the tracks that appeared on that LP are different takes, and the unreleased stuff is superb. Jimmy Page wanks all over the place, but it’s wanking of the first order. I can see why people pegged them as devil worshippers. Jimmy’s guitar playing sounds way more like Satan than anything Charlie Daniels ever dug up in Georgia.
You might think that a geek like me is listening to the new Star Trek sound track or some obscure folk singer, but I am stranger than any geek you’ve ever met. I’m listening to Tom Waits.
I just downloaded Tom Waits new live album, Glitter and Doom Live (Anti 2009). Recorded from performances across the U.S. and Europe during the 2008 tour, it is Waits at his best.
Why Tom Waits? (And if you don’t know Tom, you are missing out. For the more main stream of you out there, he did the “tango” version of “Roxanne” in Moulin Rouge and “A Little Bit of Poison” for Shrek.) Because, there is nobody else who takes the most hedonistic parts of rock, old time blues and weirdness, twists them together, and produces a style that defies classification and makes you want to hobo across America with a guitar or move to New Orleans and sing about all your ex-lovers on street corner.
For a Second Time
(June 16, 2009)
Label: Cedar Creek Music
Well, today’s convoluted music news is that Daddy’s gonna be a daddy for a second time with For a Second Time, and if you understand what I’m talking about, then God love ya and log onto ReverbNation.com/DaddyTheBand PDQ because time’s running out to get your copy of this baby with the name-your-own-price option.
That’s right, the CD hits the streets on June 16 and Daddy’s letting you set the price (plus S&H) until June 6, all in time for Father’s Day.
I first heard about Daddy from Jeff Roberts, owner of the very independent Sounds Better Records in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “You need to know about Daddy,” he told me, “You start out with two solid singer/songwriters who are at different ends of the playing field and the place where they meet is completely different… it’s like two and two equal five … and they rock!”
He was right, so I did a story about their live Myrtle Beach performance courtesy of South By Southeast [Alternatives NewsMagazine, vol. XXV, No. 2, issue Aug. 28-Sept. 11, 2008] and later blogged about their first CD, a live recording titled Daddy At the Women’s Club.
For the uninitiated, Daddy, which made its official debut at this year’s SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, is made up of five super talented players. Founders and touring duo Tommy Womack and Will Kimbrough deliver rockin’ guitar licks and write some of the wildest songs around. They first worked together in the bis-quits on John Prine’s Oh-Boy! label.We’re talking early 90s. Will was the 2005 Americana Music Association Instrumentalist of the year and Tommy has twice received the Nashville Scene Best Song award.
The rest of Daddy includes monster talents Dave Jacques on bass (John Prine, Emmylou Harris), John Deaderick playing keys (Dixie Chicks, Michael McDonald, Patty Griffin), and Paul Griffith on percussion (John Prine, Todd Snider).
After listening to this bluesy-country group for the last three days, I’m happy to report that the band’s latest offering has been worth the wait. For a Second Time is a ten-track recording that’s classic Daddy – schizophrenic rants that morph into crystal clear observations of life. This little slice of roots-rock Americana with its gospel overtones and rockabilly undertones gets better with each listen.
Here’s how Tommy describes the opening track, “Nobody From Nowhere:” Will and I wrote this one together with acoustic guitars in my house. I love how the tunes came from that and flowed to a place that sounds like the bayou coastline looks, with flashes of Memphis. You can dance to it. It fuses and Motown and the Allman Brothers like probably never before.”
“Early To Bed, Early To Rise,” is another written and performed by Womack. He says, “It’s a tough song for tough times. I play the part of the curmudgeon commencement speaker who needs to put the fear of God into the young, fresh hearts and minds of this country. Warren Zevon meets Crazy Horse.”
Next up (and the only track not written by one or both) is folk classic, “The Ballad of Martin Luther King,” which comes from singer/songwriter Mike Millius, who reportedly wrote it the same night Dr. King was assassinated.
Track four is “Wash & Fold,” written by Will Kimbrough. Tommy calls it “Will’s tune of love in a laundromat.” The backstory is that it was inspired after bringing some gamey “tour-filthy” laundry to a city laundry and being subjected to utter rudeness after choosing wash-and-fold instead of springing for wash-and-press.
“He Ain’t Right,” track seven features Tommy’s lyrics, Will’s music. Basically, it’s Kimbrough singing Womack’s story.
The melancholy album closer, “Redemption Is a Mother’s Only Son,” was written by Kimbrough and Jeff Finlin, another talented American singer/songwriter traveling under the radar.
Concord Music Group
John Fogerty is back, and he is kickin’ butt! I don’t know about you, but I’m a Fogerty fan from way back, and I have sorely missed his unique brand of rock-and-soul swamp blues.
Revival, the new 12-track CD from the former CCR rocker/writer is chock full of the passion, politics and rockin’ and rollin’ that is synonymous with the Fogerty we knew and loved.
Opening track “Don’t You Wish It Was True,” is a tune that harkens back to 60s idealism, but, in spite of itself, still seems hopeful and optimistic. In “Creedence Song,” Fogerty acknowledges his own tremendous impact on a generation with lyrics like “you can’t go wrong if you play a little bit of that Creedence song.” “Long Dark Night” is a biting recrimination of the Bush administration, the Iraq war and the president’s handling of the Katrina disaster. Those who don’t appreciate Fogerty’s liberal leanings may be tempted to dismiss the CD because of it, but I hope you don’t. This is great rock and roll.
“Long Shot” is the closing track, and it’s classic Fogerty. This CD is truly a revival. A solid Gotta Have. Revival features John Fogerty on vocals and guitar; Hunter Perrin, also on guitar; David Santos on bass; and Kenny Aronoff on drums and percussion. Benmont Tench plays the Hammond B-3 organ on “Natural Thing, “ “River Is Waiting” and “Somebody Help Me;” and electric piano on “River Is Waiting” and “Somebody Help Me.” Singer background on “Don’t You Wish It Was True,” “River Is Waiting” and “Longshot” are Julia Waters, Maxine Waters and Oren Waters.
© Reviewed by Dariel Bendin, Oct. 5, 2008. This also ran in Coast and Alternatives magazines in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Issue Oct. 8, 2008, p. 24.
Buddy and Julie Miller
Written In Chalk (2009)
Label: New West Records
Genre: Roots, Americana
A friend of mine in California just sent me the latest offering from husband and wife duo, Buddy and Julie Miller. First thing I did was pop it in the car’s CD player, and I’ve been listening to it for a couple days now. Written In Chalk is a fine recording. In true Americana fashion, the disc is steeped in country, jazz and blues. Buddy and Julie Miller somehow manage to be both primitive and sophisticated at the same time.
To give you a little background, this talented pair may not be household names, but they’re well-respected among musicians and roots buffs. They’ve been married for the last 20 years, singing on each other’s solo albums as well as their duo CDs and appearing with a circle of musicians who sing their praises every chance they get.
Buddy Miller is known as a songwriter and co-songwriter for folks like the Dixie Chicks, Lee Ann Womack and Brooks & Dunn. He has also performed with Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams. His 1999 solo release, Cruel Moon (Hightone Records) features harmony work from wife Julie, Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris.
Julie’s Broken Things (1999 Hightone Records) and Blue Pony (1997) CDs have both been acclaimed critically, showcasing her songwriting skills along with her vocal abilities.
Recorded at the couple’s home studio in Nashville, Written In Chalk is a soulful collaboration of the two. Buddy’s guitar work is stellar and the harmonies throughout are right on. Track two, “Gasoline and Matches,”written by Julie and Buddy, has all the earmarks of a hit. It’s sexy and fun; plus there’s a driving beat that makes you sit up and take notice.
“Long Time” is a sweet, sad, soulful tune and Julie’s voice just sends it home to the heart.
Flat out the most fun is “What You Gonna Do Leroy,” which was written by Mel Tillis and released by Burl Ives back in 1962. Buddy’s duet with Robert Plant was a great surprise, and definitely adds to the song’s charm.
There are some other guest contributors to the CD as well. Track three features Patty Griffin on “Don’t Say Goodbye” and on the duet, “Chalk.” Regina McCrary pairs with Buddy on track six, “One Part, Two Part” and again on “Hush, Sorrow,” track nine. The final track, “The Selfishness In Man” includes harmony from Emmylou Harris.
If you’re a fan of Buddy and Julie Miller, you’ll want to add this one to your collection. If you’re just jumping on the Buddy and Julie bandwagon, this is a great place to start.
Reviewed by Dariel Bendin