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WRIU Folk & Roots

CD Reviews for 02/22/08 - Arthur Alexander, Sterling Harrison

Compact Capsules for 02/22/08
by Dan Ferguson


Arthur Alexander
Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter
Hacktone Records 271932


The early 1990s comeback of ‘60s soul singer Arthur Alexander was just hitting its stride when at the conclusion of a performance in Nashville in June of 1993, Alexander dropped dead as the result of a massive heart attack. The writer and voice behind the song “Anna” which made it onto two Beatles albums, 1963’s Introducing The Beatles and The Early Beatles from 1965, and was one of two Alexander-penned songs the Fab Four covered, it was the album Lonely Just Like Me that was responsible for reintroducing Alexander and had critics and fans abuzz with his tightly woven country-soul mix. A native of Alabama, it was the historic FAME Recording studio in Muscle Shoals where Alexander recorded his first single in 1960, a little ditty called “You Better Move On” which made it into the Top 25 on the pop charts. A string of well-received singles would follow, but Alexander would eventually lose interest in the business and cast it aside by the mid-1970s. It was a few public appearances in the early 1990s that would plant the seed for a revival of his recording career with Lonely Just Like Me the comeback prize. Produced by Ben Vaughn and featuring a who’s who of accompanists including Reggie Young, Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham and Donnie Fritts, the reception to Lonely Just Like Me following its release in 1992 was outstanding. Now some 15+ years later, reissue house Hacktone Records brings us Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter. Consider it a treatise on country soul with the late Alexander arguably the pre-eminent poster boy for the sub-genre. (Visit www.hacktone.com.)

Sterling Harrison
South of the Snooty Fox
Hacktone Records 271868


By virtue of his posthumous release South of the Snooty Fox, consider the late Sterling Harrison, a.k.a. Mr. Entertainer, one of the unsung soul singer elites, a hard luck performer relegated to the roadhouses and non-descript lounges and restaurants who paid his dues but never got his due. Harrison wasn’t a songwriter as much as he was a song interpreter. A native of Virginia who shared the stage with such soul greats as Otis Redding, James Brown, and Millie Jackson, Harrison’s recording career dates back to the mid-1950s and a variety of singles and albums for labels like Vim, Smash, Motown and Atlantic. (Word has it that Jimi Hendrix backed in on several occasion in the 1960s.) Never anything close to a household name, Harrison earned his stripes across the Chitlin Circuit before making his way to the West Coast. It was his regular gig at a deep South Los Angeles soul food joint that caught the ears of local music aficionados’ Steve Berlin (Los Lobos, The Blasters) and writer/actor Eddie Gorodetsky. They took it to the point of bringing Harrison into the studio, suggesting songs, and recording what has become South of the Snooty Fox. Produced by the Berlin-Gorodetsky pairing, South of the Snooty Fox shines the spotlight directly on the versatile voice and interpretive magic of Harrison who “takes possession” of songs from Bobby “Blue” Bland, Bobby Womack, Otis Redding, Johnnie Taylor, O.V. Wright and Tom Waits, among others, and makes them his own. South of the Snooty Fox presents a soul singer who is nothing short of the real deal. (Visit www.hacktone.com.)

(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at boudindan@cox.net.)


posted by Boudin Dan, 02/22/08

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