Bringing It all Back Home

Marcia Ball, Irma Thomas and Tracy Nelson - Sing It!
(Rounder Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

What do you get when you cross a soul queen, a leggy, roadhouse piano diva and a set of booming pipes from a gal who blends country and the blues effortlessly. One helluva good time, that's what.
When Louisiana and Texas bred Marcia Ball, New Orleans soul queen Irma Thomas and country / blues star Tracy Nelson (who happens to be a native of Madison, Wisconsin) first performed together a few years ago in New Orleans the girls realized that there was not only a magic when they sang together but also that they truly had fun working with one another. It was this show that eventually led to the gals getting together for their latest album Sing It!.
Sing It! displays the talents of each woman together and apart showcasing Thomas' soulful gospel-inspired vocals, along with Ball's rich, rousing voice and boogie-woogie piano style and Nelson's earthy, bluesy vocals. The result is a fun R&B album that traces the roots of each woman's musical career.
Pregnant and only 14, Irma Thomas' career in music began in the Crescent City when she was working as a cook and auditioned for a renowned bandleader. That led to local shows and eventually her first record, "You Can Have My Husband (But Don't Mess With My Man)" when she was only 18. She went on to record other early sixties classics such as "It's Raining", "I Done Got Over It" and "Wish Someone Would Care".
(Ironically, one of her early songs, "Time Is On My Side" became a much bigger success when a new band called the Rolling Stones recorded it in 1964). After becoming somewhat disenchanted with the music business she relocated to L.A. before moving back to New Orleans in the late seventies to reclaim her throne as the queen of soul.
Marcia Ball and Tracy Nelson were both huge fans of Thomas' in the early sixties as stated in the liner notes of Sing It!. "Irma is the inspiration for this project," Nelson said. "Marcia and I both listened to her when we started out. I sang along to Irma's records, checking out her phrasing and intonation. I stole all of her technique that I could, and hope I went on from there to create my own style."
Ball adds, "I've been a big Irma Thomas fan since childhood. I spent a lot of time in New Orleans back when her hits were coming out on the radio. I never dreamt back then, of course, that I would actually get to cut an album with her."
This mutual admiration is apparent throughout Sing It! as the girls beautifully harmonize on the title track over an infectious boogie beat and Ball's juke-joint piano rolls. Thomas' soulful voice is featured on the R&B flavored gospel numbers "Yield Not To Temptation", "People Will Be People" and "Woman On The Move". Ball belts out that she "ain't no home maker" on the rowdy number "Love Maker" while staking a claim on her man on the bluesy "He's Mine". Nelson's country / blues roots shows through on the bittersweet tune "In Tears" and alongside with Thomas on the showstopping, soul-dripping "You Don't Know Nothing About Love".
Be it the blues, gospel, country, soul or just good old R&B, these gals sure do know how to bring it on home.

Return to CD Archives
Return to CD Reviews
Return to Menu