The mere fact that this album is titled Memphis immediately made my ears prick up – of course, I would have to take instant notice. But the music contained within simply fits the title – all the soul and heart of that city, as appreciated and interpreted by Ms. Amy Black, one hell of a singer. This is her fourth album and it should be the one to really put her on the map. Among those who performed on this album with Ms. Black are some absolute giants: Stax guitarist Bobby Manuel, Hi drummer Howard Grimes, Rev. Charles Hodges on keyboards and his brother, Leroy “Flick” Hodges on bass – formidable and legendary players. Scott Bomar of The Bo-Keys handled the production reins and mix master Adam Hill of Ardent Studios did the rest – the results are, naturally, glorious.
From the explosive drum-kick and organ opening (supplemented by a damned fine Memphis Horns-like entry) of “It’s Hard To Love An Angry Man”, I’m immediately reminded of the sound of Willie Mitchell’s Hi label, circa ’72 or ’73 – and the structure of the song is purely classic soul; listen to those subtle, dynamic guitar licks and her voice just reaches deep and pulls out FEELING. “Without You” has that Otis sad-song feel with some crisp guitar working around horns and piano; subsequently, the Otis Clay classic, “If I Could Reach Out (and Help Somebody)”, with its mid-’70’s feel has a wonderful groove and melody and a meaningfully uplifting lyric – a powerfully beautiful song of hope. “What Makes A Man?” has a sleek groove and a hypnotic riff – you can easily imagine this blasting out of a car radio; “Nineteen” takes a different turn with acoustic guitars, strings and a very Booker T.-styled organ riff swirling underneath with a lyrical content that could have been delivered in the ’60’s – a dramatic, cinematic track and “We Got A Good Thing” steps right out of McLemore Ave., circa ’72, with a dance groove/joyful feel and is my personal favorite of this collection – all the best elements of a Memphis soul track right here.
So yes, Amy Black has, indeed, delivered a Memphis-worthy album; obviously, a labor of love, which you can feel and hear. And when it comes to Memphis soul, it’s what counts more than anything else. So get online – go to a record store – and get a copy of this modern soul stomping classic. Amy Black has got it going on – and she does Memphis proud…
Memphis will be released on Friday, June 2nd, 2017