Monday, December 16, 2019

The Feel It Mini Advent-ure: Door 16

Although I plough a fairly narrow furrow on this blog my musical leanings are fairly eclectic, and I am happy to listen to things that are new to me. This year I have been listening to a lot more jazz, and I am really getting a taste for exotica. Besides my obvious love of  “black” music in general I have for a long time been drawn to Americana, and I am also much more open to a bit of prog rock nowadays. My love of art rock and punk back in the 70s has never left me either.

But when it comes down to it I am always drawn back to soul, I suppose it is my comfort music. I never tire of hunting out new (to me) records in that genre. Now and then I start to think I've found all the easily affordable soul records out there. But then I stumble across another record like this one that proves soul's well is deep.

Shirley Brown released her first single, on Abet, in September 1971 (despite the copyright on my 1975 UK released copy saying 1972). September 1971 was exactly the time I caught the music listening bug for real (top 30 chart shows taped etc etc) and I remember Al Green's Tired Of Being Alone gracing the UK charts at that time and being just about the first soul record that wasn't Motown that I got hooked on. From then on soul of the Southern and Deep variety have have always really hit the spot for me, although I struggled to find much of it to listen back in those days. For example I'm pretty sure this Shirley Brown track would not have got an airing on UK radio on its initial US release.

After her debut single nothing really seemed to happen on the recording front for Shirley for three years. Then she was finally picked up by Stax and she was placed on their Truth subsidiary label. Her first single on that imprint, Woman To Woman , hit #1 in the Soul charts and made the top 30 pop. The album of the same name sold well too. Unfortunately the timing was bad. Stax was running into big trouble and by the end of 1975 they had filed for bankruptcy. In fact that filing may have been even sooner if it hadn't been for the success of Woman To Woman. Shirley never hit those chart heights again, and her style of Southern soul was out of fashion to the mainstream(did somebody say Disco?). 

Shirley remains active on the music scene. From the mid-70s on she was remarkably consistent with her recorded output, averaging an album every three years between 1974 and 2009. The Malaco label was her base for most of these, as would be the case for many Southern soul singers who “kept it real” so to speak and chose not to follow the mainstream and the disco round. Now in her early 70s she is still performing at Blues festivals across America, and has two dates lined up in early Spring 2020. 

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