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King Ernest Baker died in a car crash in Los Angeles on March 4, 2000, just a few days after he finished recording Blues Got Soul. His death seems all the more tragic when you hear the CD. Blues Got Soul is so deep-hearted, the singer would surely have landed more gigs and perhaps some real money from its release.
Blues Got Soul is a moving collection of slow and mid-tempo tunes that hark back to classic songs by Solomon Burke, Percy Sledge, and other Southern soul singers. It's the sort of deep-soul album rarely recorded in this era of cookie-cutter pop and guitar-dominated blues. Baker sings with incredible range given his age (61). His voice is smoky and seductive, and when it rises to a falsetto, it's downright stirring. A full-bodied horn section, low-profile electric guitars, and occasional organ contribute to the classic soul sound.
The material is excellent, though the tempos are persistently slow. The centerpiece is a beautiful version of Tom Waits' "House Where Nobody Lives." Equally stirring is "I Must Have Lost My Mind," a redemptive song with a powerful Al Green-like vibe. "Rock Me in Your Arms" is a catchy love song dripping in soul, while "Blues Conviction" conveys the pain and guilt of adultery as emotionally as any tune could.
A couple of years ago, Baker embarked on a musical comeback after working for 14 years with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. A native of Natchez, Miss., King Ernest spent most of his performing career in Chicago. He was never as famous as many lesser talents, but King Ernest was always respected by his fellow musicians. Mick Jagger, for instance, is a huge King Ernest fan, and he even lent a song to Baker's previous release King of Hearts.
King Ernest Baker left a lot of his spirit behind on Blues Got Soul. If you miss that old soul music, track this one down.
Track Listing: Suffer and Stay; Blues Conviction; Contentment; Rock Me in Your Arms; House Where Nobody Lives; Fallin' Down on My Face With the Blues; Till the Day I Die; Must Have Lost My Mind; Wood Rat; Regular Man
Personnel: "King" Ernest Baker (vocals); Robert Thomas Bucy (guitar); Laurence Baulden (bass); Steve Mugallian (drums); Andy Kaulkin (piano, organ); Deston Berry, Kincaid Smith (background vocals); Jeff Turmes, Efren Santana, Michael Benedict (saxophones); Kincaid Smith (trumpet); Rick Holmstrom (guitar, background vocals)
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.