Holding court at Silky O’Sullivan’s Pub on Beale Street some 5 nights a week for the last 13 years, Ms. Blue has released seven albums in that time, the last three all Live recordings.
This week, her 8th album will drop. It is called ROYAL BLUE and it is a winner.
Recorded at the famous Royal Studios here in Memphis (the history of this studio is fodder for a post of its own), with Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell as producer, the album is a throwback to those great blues records of old.
Barbara’s band includes; Lester Snell on Fender Rhodes, B3 Hammond Organ and Acoustic Piano; Skip Pitts on Guitar Rhythm and Lead; Steve Potts on Drums and Dave Smith on Bass.
Additionally she has brought in Lannie McMillan and Gary Topper on Tenor Sax; Marc Franklin on Trumpet and Jim Spake on Baritone Sax.
She then sprinkles in some fabulous special guests including Robert “Nighthawk” Tooms on Harmonica (tracks # 7 and 10); Brandon Bailey on Harmonica (tracks #11 and 12); Josh Roberts on Slide Guitar (track # 12) & Guitar (track #11); Preston Shannon on Guitar (track #9); and Cody Dickenson on Electric Washboard (track # 2).
Background vocals are supplied by Daunielle “Pie” Hill and Jackie Johnson.
This is a true collection of blues, funk and soul. On the album, Ms. Blue has writing credit on 3 of the 13 tracks. The other 10 are classics she has put her own spin to.
The horn section gives a tremendous layering to the entire album with stand-out tracks including “If I Could Reach Out (And Touch Somebody)” and the opening tune “Beware”.
I found her take on the Al Green penned song “Rhymes”, as a wonderful tribute to the great man.
She takes the Syl Johnson song “Back For A Taste Of Your Love” and gives it a feel Jonny Lang misses, in this writers opinion.
You have to have total confidence in your abilities to take on “Heartbreak Hotel”, especially being from Memphis. Ms. Blue slows the number down and adds big horns and some tasty guitar licks by Skip Pitts and turns it into a brand new song.
Ms. Blue takes ownership of every song she sings, but even more so on her original tunes. “Blue” starts off the trio and seems autobiographical in nature. A fine example of Memphis Blues.
One of my favorite cuts on the album is the song “All You’ve Got” which was written by Ms. Blue along with Robert “Nighthawk” Tooms. Robert is the keyboard and harmonica player from the Reba Russell Band and it is some fine listening to hear him collaborate with Ms. Blue and add his sweet harmonica playing to this track.
Her interpretation will just send you soaring as high as Ms. Blue’s vocals on the song. This is as close to a capella as you come, with only minimal piano and some tasty horn work during the breaks.
Want to listen to a true Memphis soul but can’t afford to get in your car or jump on a plane or train, then click on over to Barbara Blue’s website and purchase Royal Blue. As a bonus, Ms. Blue autographs every album bought on her website.
But my suggestion IS to get in your car, jump that plane or train and get yourself down to Silky's and watch this stellar artist live and full force.
5 out of 5 Turntables