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Vaneese Thomas: The Long Journey Home

James Nadal By

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With an inherited musical talent, and a professional recording career going back over thirty years, vocalist Vaneese Thomas has appropriately titled her latest release The Long Journey Home, home being her Memphis roots of blues, gospel, and soul. Her last release Blues For My Father, (2014 Segue Records) was an emotional tribute to her father, legendary soul man Rufus Thomas, and this new record continues the family legacy bestowed upon her. Composing eleven of twelve songs, ascertaining she is very much a modern woman with her own story to tell, Thomas delivers a dazzling repertoire, and gives a master class on how this music should be performed.

As is to be expected, Thomas comes out with a full backing chorus on "Sweet Talk Me," exhibiting her soul roots right from the first track. The greasy down home blues of "Lonely No More," shows the proper phrasing and articulation that only comes from having been to where the song comes from. The honking tenor solo by Cliff Lyons livens up "Sat'day Night On The River," flashing back to Louis Jordan and the golden age of rhythm and blues, when this music was played for dancing and good times.

Thomas totally dominates "Mystified," a contemporary upbeat blues with a sanctified edge, brought out by the clever guitar hook playing off of the horn section, augmented by the rousing chorale. Thomas is obviously at ease here, and simply sings her heart out. Another gem in the set, "Prince Of Fools," follows this particular formula, yet the pace is brought way down for the proper ambience of romantic regret. The banjo and dobro picking distinguish the churning "Country Funk," while "Rockin' The Blues Away," is a laid back moan, again featuring Peter Calo on dobro. Keeping with the blues tradition, "Revelation," brings in harmonica man Rob Paparozzi, and Tash Neal on dobro, to enhance the required emotion.

The subject matter gets serious as "The More Things Change," takes a close look at the civil rights situation in America, and how throughout Thomas's lifetime there has been some improvement, but it's a shame that more has not been accomplished. Maintaining that thoughtful mood, she summons up her gospel influences with "Mean World," where she also plays the appropriate piano accompaniment, in the true church manner.

The blues/rock oriented "I Got A Man In TN," turns up the guitars as Thomas proves she can belt it out with the best of them. Flowing along the rock current, they close out with a rousing rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain," though it might appear an odd choice, this version is given a strong dose of Memphis rhythm and blues, with the background singers adding a spiritual element.

Vaneese Thomas and producer Wayne Warnecke brought in veteran musicians for these sessions, which have the dynamics of a live soul revival caught on tape. Thomas sings with authority and conviction, blessed with a voice she acknowledges comes from her ancestors, who created the blues to give expression to their anguish and joy, and she righteously does them proud.

Track Listing: Sweet Talk Me; Lonely No More; Sat’day Night On The River; Mystified; Country Funk; The More Things Change; Prince Of Fools; I Got A Man In Tn; Rockin’ Away The Blues; Revelation; Mean World; The Chain.

Personnel: Vaneese Thomas: lead vocal, organ (11); Joe Bonadio: drums, percussion (7, 9, 12); Paul Adamy: bass; Paul Mariconda: piano, organ, sax (5); Sergio Cocchi: organ (3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11); Wayne Warnecke: percussion , electric guitar (1, 4, 5); trumpet (5); Al Orlo: electric guitar, acoustic guitar ( 10, 12) ; Tash Neal: electric guitar ( 2, 8, 10), dobro (10, 12); Peter Calo: dobro (5, 9), banjo (5); Rob paparazzi: harmonica (10); Katie Jacoby: violin (5, 12); Cliff Lyons: sax solo (3); Ed Palermo: sax (3, 4, 7); Bryan Davis: trumpet (3, 4, 7); Barbara CIfelli: (3); Lisa Fischer: backing vocals (1, 8, 12); Erin Pellnat: backing vocals (1, 8, 12); Sergio Cocchi ( backing vocals (1, 8, 12); Sharon Bryant: backing vocals; Fonzi Thornton: backing vocals ( 3, 4, 7); Darryl Tookes: (3, 4, 7); Carolyn Mitchell: backing vocals (3).

Title: The Long Journey Home | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Segue Records

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