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Various: Rhythm & Blues

Jerry D'Souza By

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Putumayo World Music has gone across a wide spectrum in picking songs for its look at Rhythm & Blues. The American presence is strongly manifested, but artists from England, including a band that has a singer from Panama, show the wide influence of the music. Vintage singers strut their stuff and new acolytes blend styles while the impact of R&B is undeniable. Fame may have eluded some and others flitter on the fringes of history, nevertheless they all poured their souls into vitalising the songs.

Lavelle White, who starts off the CD, began her singing career in the '50s, a decade during which she recorded several singles. She moved to Chicago in the '70s and performed at Kingston Mines, a blues club, before going back to Texas. "I've Never Found a Man to Love" taken from her 1996 album,It Haven't Been Easy (Discovery/Antone's) shows she still had the power to communicate with a raw and powerful passion. The blazing horns and back-up vocals add to the energy of this dynamic track.

Snooks Eaglin brings in chunky guitar chords against the backdrop of an organ to testify to "A Mother's Love." Eaglin was an earthy singer and a guitarist who could plumb a tune for the deepest sliver of emotion. Though this is from the latter part of his career, his mastery in making a song into an unforgettable experience is still deeply manifested.

A slow groove that revolves on soul brings on "My Honey and Me." The Emotions charge the song with a sultry lead vocal and high-voltage harmonies that are woven into a slow grinding pulse. The sensuality is palpable and it is still a treat.

Two acts, James Hunter and The Quantic Soul Orchestra, come from England. Hunter nails "'Till Your Fool Comes Home" deep into the blues. The pulse is hot and energetic all the way. The Orchestra also filters the blues, but the tone is lighter as it imbues some off-rhythm reggae and a Caribbean beat driven by percussion. Kabir, who is from Panama, is chock-full of soul. All put together, the Orchestra which is the brainchild of Will Holland, shows off an exuberant spirit that adds a welcome adjunct.

The final track works as a hallelujah for what has gone by as Gospel music, it calls Irma Thomas and Henry Butler to proclaim "River is Waiting." Both are inspired, stirring up the spirit in joyous abandon and making for a memorable listen.

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