BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Amy Black isn’t paving any new roads with her new album Memphis, but that’s not the point. Offering up an abrupt turn from the earnest Americana of her previous efforts, she sets her sights on the sounds the city referenced in the title was so famous for. It’s not as abrupt a switch as one might think and it’s certainly nothing that hasn’t been attempted before. However, Black’s effort to offer a tribute to that city’s legacy of soul and R&B, a sound that fermented Stax, Hi and other sounds that rode on the crest of the Mississippi, shows a decided heartfelt devotion that’s clearly worthy of recognition.
Black’s taken this tack before; her last album, The Muscle Shoals Sessions, owed its allegiance to that fabled studio where so many landmark recordings of historical significance were made. So if she seems to have embarked on a Magical History Tour, the thematic fit makes sense. Still, it’s a heady commitment, given that the last word on the Memphis sound was well etched with Al Green, Mavis Staples, Ann Peebles and all the other venerable artists that called the city their home. Happily though, Black seems undeterred. Enlisting, among others, Charles and Leroy Hodges, the original session players who played on all those classic Al Green sides, and opting for a mix of choice covers — “If Could Reach Out (And Help Somebody),” “I Need Your Love So Bad” and the erstwhile “Further On Up the Road” — and impressive originals, she effectively captures the style and sound of Memphis in its mainstream. There’s no hint of pretence, no unnecessary posturing, but rather instead, the sound of a cool groove, basic blues and simmering soul.
DOWNLOAD: “If Could Reach Out (And Help Somebody),” “I Need Your Love So Bad,” Further On Up the Road”