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More Dirty Laundry: The Soul of Black Country

by: Various Artists

Album Artwork

More Dirty Laundry: The Soul of Black Country
Various Artists
By James Calemine

The genius of this collection resides in defying musical prejudices. This CD proves black artists appreciated and recorded songs by white country musicians. Stereotypical perspectives such as only white musicians played country music and black artists only recorded blues and soul are obliterated by this 24 song collection.

Musicians are always influenced by artists outside of their own musical genre. These black artists walked a tightrope by recording old white country songs. Many of these artists on this indelible collection admit country radio was what they heard while working on the farm or growing up. In many ways the black identified with the downtrodden white country musicians. Each understood hard days of service…

This anthology serves as hard evidence of black musicians rendering country music. It is interesting to hear how the black musicians incorporated blues, gospel and soul into country standards. The liner notes of this CD provide an in-depth essay on the early origins of American music and how it affected black and white musicians. Each of the artists on this CD earned reputations and careers playing music other than country.

Rhythm-n-blues great Johnny Adams always included country songs on his albums. His version of “Hell Yes I Cheated” sounds like a pure soul song. Lou Johnson’s cover of George Jones’ “She Thinks I Still Care” proves brilliant. Margie Johnson covered Dolly Parton’s “Touch Your Woman” on Atlantic when Jerry Wexler was still there. Joe Tex, synonymous with southern soul, once said, “My recipe for a crossover hit? I always used one half soul musicians, and the other half country musicians.” Tex’s version of “Trying To Win Your Love” could be branded country funk. Tex also recorded Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” that appears on this collection.

Arthur Alexander wrote songs with white musicians such as Donnie Fritts, Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. A gifted songwriter, Alexander was from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and his version of “Everyday I Have To Cry” indicates why Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles covered his songs.

My favorite tune on this compilation is an inimitable composition written by none other than Ike Turner. Turner represents a mainline of rhythm-n-blues master, but this song verifies his strong grasp of different elements of country music. Ike and Tina singing “Don’t Believe Nothing” alone pays for this CD.

The country legend Bob Wills gave the hard luck soul man Stoney Edwards an opportunity to serve as Wills’ opening act. Edwards’ songs always found their way into the country charts. Edwards’ “Honky Tonk Heaven” on this collection offers a rare glimpse into defying musical stereotypes. Solomon Burke’s rendition of “He’ll Have To Go” does not really reflect his early country influences before his soul legend originated.
Session guitarist Bobby Womack spent a lot of time in Memphis at Ardent Studios writing songs for Wilson Pickett among others. Womack also recorded with Sly Stone. Womack recorded great soul albums in Muscle Shoals, but he also recorded Jim White’s “Point of No Return” on More Dirty Laundry. Womack represents a classic example of this CDs intention. He gave insight to his musical instincts: “Country and Western is my roots, it’s deeply rooted in all my songs and lyrics. My people came from the hills of Virginia and played a lot of it.”

Most people do not know the Godfather of Soul—James Brown—recorded country songs; even a country album that was never released. Porter Wagoner’s keyboard player was once a member of James Brown’s band. Brown was even invited to play The Grand Ole Opry where he played a medley of Hank Williams’ “Your Cheating Heart”, “Georgia On My Mind” and “Tennessee Waltz” before plunging into his deep funk set.

Junior Parker who wrote Elvis’ “Mystery Train”, recorded at Sun Records and served as a member of Howlin’ Wolf’s band, covers Ernest Tubb’s “Walking The Floor” with astonishing success. The final track, Andre Williams’ ‘Pardon Me (I’ve got Someone To Kill”) resonates in a way that inspired white blues bands like the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and the White Stripes to expose the ragged but right Williams to a new audience of music fans.

More Dirty Laundry serves as a vital piece to the country-blues puzzle.

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