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CD Review Soul star continues with his career rejuvenation.

 

Solomon Burke - Nashville

Shout Factory

No soul artist in memory has had a renassaince quite like Solomon Burke. A maker of minor hits in the '60's and a onetime member of the much-publicized Soul Clan, Burke nonetheless had to resort to various non-musical sidelines to keep himself going once his hits stopped coming by the dawn of the '70's. Every decade since brought a minor comeback but, when rediscovered in 2002, had been a long time since Burke had made a serious run at hitting the charts. What makes his comeback all the more astounding is that it happened organically, without managers and record labels collaborating in some crazy Rock and Roll Hall of Fame happy ending story. It began when the head of Epitaph Records met producer T-Bone Burnett at a music festival and asked Burnette if there were any cool projects Burnette had been working on lately. Burnette, totally off the cuff and testing the label head's intent, said he would like to do an album on the '60's soul legend It hit the executive like a hammer out of the blue but when Burnette explained his concept of putting the singer together with well-written contemporary songs by famous songwriters, Epitaph was on it like a hobo on a ham sandwich.

That album, Don't Give Up On Me , was a fantastic example about how a soul singer can re-invent himself for the new millenium. With songs from such stellar songwriters as Nick Lowe, Brian Wilson and Elvis Costello among others, the album showed a depth and world weariness rare even for the best soul singers. Burnette's production was understated and delicate while Burke was allowed to record with his own church's band, allowing for sympathetic and minimal accompaniment which rightly left room for Burke's expressive singing. Burke's next album, Make Do With What You Got, unfortunately lived up to it's title and was a definite step back for the singer. Although it did have its' moments, the songwriting on the album was second-tier and Burnette (or Epitaph for that matter) was not affiliated with the project, which left the production lacking and gave the whole album an air of just trying to capitalize on his previous success. Still, it kept Burke's name in the spotlight despite the sub-par songs and production, and no one seemed to blame Burke for the album, instead letting the blame rest on his collaborator's shoulders.

On this new CD, Burke goes back to doing what he does best: country soul. Produced by guitarist Buddy Miller, the album stocks up on guest stars like Dolly Parton, Patty Griffin and Gillian Welch and a buttload of famous musicians but, unlike most "event" albums, keeps Burke to the forefront to the point that the guest stars just feel like additonal vocal help and nothing more. Miller's a savvy producer and knows to keep the focal point on the star of the show and does a great job maintaining that vision. Burke's work here even tops his work on Don't Give Up On Me , which is no mean feat. By remembering to keep the musical backing understated and lean, Burke and Miller shoot for the moon here and land better than Buzz Aldrin. Burke's voice has never had more ache and every word he sings hits you in the heart like a sledgehammer, forcing you to succumb to his dark mood.

Fans of soul music will just adore this album, as will fans of country music. Burke returns to the top of his game and shows he is ready to continue the amazing career resurrection he has enjoyed since the start of ther millenium. If the songs on this CD don't hit you deep in your heart, you've gotta figure out what's happened to your soul. This shit is deep, man, deep. I mean, tears and heartaches for days sung in ways that make the songs unforgettable. My God, this is a great album. Burke proves he has nothing to lose and continues to stretch himself like few soul singers before or since. If only Aretha could get back to making music this strong.

 

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