DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Sweet Explosion: Greenville, S.C.’s Chocolate Thunder

Posted in CD Picks by darielb on July 1, 2009

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Linda Rodney is Chocolate Thunder.

Linda Rodney is Chocolate Thunder.

Linda Rodney, better known to her  fans as Chocolate Thunder, is a powerhouse and her latest recording is sure to satisfy your craving for tasty grooves and funk-laced  R&B.

Ear Candy, released on June 25, is a sensory explosion of musical morsels. All 12 tracks were written by Rodney except track  six, “Love Caused It,”for which she wrote the lyrics and Franklin Wilkie, the CD’s producer, wrote the music.

Wilkie, by the way, is the bass player who replaced Marshall Tucker Band’s Tommy Caldwell after his untimely death in 1980. Wilkie also played with another  legendary S.C. southern rock band, Garfeel Ruff. Fans will be happy to discover that bandmates Rickey Godfrey (guitar and keyboard), Ronnie Godfrey (keyboard) and Buddy Strong (engineer) have joined him on the Chocolate Thunder CD.

“I met Frank a couple years ago,” says Rodney. “When I was ready to do the CD, I called him because I knew he could pull the right people together.”

The opening track, “Love Thang,” is the artist’s favorite, a woman’s song of love to her man. The groove is deceptively simple and the opening vibes and cello patch are unexpected treats.Rodney’s strong vocals are just a hint of what’s to come. Her voice is a wonderfully contradictory mix of sweetness and raw energy; softness and strength.

“Power of a Lady,” track two, had its beginnings in the kitchen. “I was standing there cooking and I started singing this melody and then ‘Never underestimate the power of a lady, Hey lady, do you know just who you are?’ I grabbed a pencil and just started writing the song. The lyrics have changed some, but that’s how the song started.” Aggressive double lead guitar work by Rickey Godfrey supports the lyrics beautifully.

Up next is “Got My Act Together,” a tune with a solid groove and strong vocals. Sweet sax playing by Tony Kennedy and sparse pads from keyboard player Steve Keeter add to its appeal.

The soul song, “Other Side of Memphis,” track four, has been released as the album’s first single and is already seeing some airplay. “I was in Memphis for a blues challenge in 2002,” Linda tells me. “I took this tour of the area and I was sitting in W.C. Handy’s home, this memorial home and the melody came. Maybe I was inspired by traveling there. It was electrifying to be in the same place as one of the fathers of the blues.”

“It’s All Good” is a rally to keep your spirits up, even when times turn sour.

I know times are tough

and things are tight

cause a whole lotta people

did things that just weren’t right.

Vocal work by husband and wife, Kim Morrison and Ronnie Godfrey, together with a first verse utilizing only Wilkie’s bass and drums by Tez Sherard behind Rodney’s lead vocals are indicative of Wilkie’s skill as a producer.

Producer, Franklin Wilkie.

Producer, Franklin Wilkie.

Track six is “Love Caused It,” pure funk with powerful vocals.When the producer is also the bass player, you know there will be at least one tune that showcases the bass, and this is it.Listen for the fusion guitar solo by Rickey Godfrey. It’s just one example of the great musicianship on this recording. When I spoke with Frank Wilkie about this project, he said, “Linda Rodney had so many songs … good songs … that we approached it as that ‘box of chocolates.’ You don’t know what you’re going to get until you take a bite.”

The next tune on the CD, “Ever New (I Love You),” is a melt-in-your-mouth ballad with a great melody line and honest lyrics that somehow pulled me in the first time I heard it. Nice saxophone solo from Tony Kennedy here. “My Georgia Pine” is track nine, and certainly the bluesiest tune of the collection. It’s a tribute to husband Ron, who Linda laughingly refers to as, “my reluctant manager!” Linda’s voice on this track is smooth and smiling. You can hear the attraction. Guitar work by Kym Mckinnon and muted trumpet solos by Craig Sorrells add to the stylish feel of this piece.

“Bring It On”is a lot of fun. Sassy and confident, Linda’s tells her man

You’ve been bragging

You’re a real, real big man

But here’s something

I want you to understand

I’m pretty bad all by myself

So save your chump talk for someone else

She softens a little bit, but still challenges him:

You bring the lightning

I’ll bring the thunder

You’ll see why they call me the Southern Wonder

Instrumentally, the song features the horn section, while the rhythm section is playing a funky four-bar groove and Steve Keeter is keepin’ cool on keyboards.

Rodney’s old school soul song is up next: “I Just Gotta Tell Ya.” It’s sweet and a little raw around the edges, with a notable piano solo by Steve Keeter.

Guitarist, Rickey Godfrey.

Guitarist, Rickey Godfrey.

“Ain’t Gonna Cry,” track 11, is one of the CD’s strongest. And funkiest. Everything comes together … Linda’s lead vocals are dead on. The guitar solo by Rickey Godfrey was – remarkably – done on the first take and has the energy of a live performance.

The final track, and another big winner is “555-HELP.”This song is just rockin’ fun and a great way to close out the CD. Speaking for myself, I’ll be a full-on chocoholic if I keep listening to this gal!

Ear Candy is Linda Rodney’s second CD. Her first, You’re Barking up the Wrong Tree (2002) featured more blues tunes. Frank Wilkie tells me two more CDs are already in the planning stages – another blues album and a gospel recording.

Additional musicians on the disc include: background vocals: Lori Guthrie, David Guthrie; drums: Creig Harber on “Power of a Lady,” “Other Side of Memphis,” “Ever New (I love You)” and “My Georgia Pine;” percussion, Jeff Holland; trumpet, Greg Day, Rich Parlier; and trombone, Wesley Day. Other liner credits include: Engineers: Buddy Strong, South Eastern Sound Studio; Aaron Whisnant, Dorcia Studio; Rick Sandidge, Mark V Studio. Mastering: Dave Harris, Studio B.Graphics: Lee Wilkie.

As we go to press, Chocolate Thunder and these guys are readying for a trip to the Montreal Jazz Festival on July 4. Watch out Canada. A Chocolate Thunder storm is coming your way!

For more information about Chocolate Thunder, visit MySpace.com/ChocolateThunder1.

This will also be published in the July 2, 2009 (p. 24) issue of Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, the independent papers in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

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One Response

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  1. darielb said, on June 30, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    I’m sad to say that Linda Rodney passed away today, June 30, 2914. Condolences to her family, friends and fans. This is a huge loss. R.I.P. Chocolate Thunder!


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