Review: J.J. Thames – Tell You What I Know

Posted on: Thursday, Mar 13, 2014


J.J. Thames – Tell You What I Know

(De Champ Records: DC100214)

J.J. was born and brought up in the General Motors dominated working class area of Detroit, Michigan and her close knit family life was immersed in music of one sort or another, she started performing at the young age of nine and from then on she received formal musical training in classical, blues and jazz and by the age of 18 she was a fully fledged, blues-shouter.

After moving to Jackson, Mississippi, in the 90s she began to fully concentrate on her career by providing stalwart backing vocals for artists such as; Marvin Sease, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, Peggy Scott Adams and Denise LaSalle. Although you may not realise it, you may well have heard J.J.’s voice before, when she provided the backing vocals for the reggae band ‘The Beat’ (of “Stand Down, Margaret” (Thatcher) fame).

Now, after spending a good deal of time in the background it is time for J.J. to step into the limelight and so she does with this spellbinding and captivating album that slinkily encompasses the blues, gospel and soul. You and your ears are immediately pinned down by the opener “Souled Out”, which has J.J. evocatively humming the introduction with only a solitary bass drum in the background, the lyrical solemnity and richness of her spiritually uplifting, pleading vocals recount trials and tribulations that go back to the dark evil days of Africa over a century ago.

All the numbers are originals apart from the Ray Charles standard “I Believe”, which is given the dark and dangerous big band treatment, while J.J.’s sensuous and enrapturing vocals enclose around a late-night nicotine stained tinkling and rolling piano.

Giving J.J. such tremendous musical support is; Celeb Armstong; guitar, David Hyde; bass, Vince Barranco; drums, Sam Brady; keyboards and production, the scintillating horns are blown by, Richard Beverly; trumpet, Todd Bobo; tenor saxophone and Mike Weidick; trombone, with J.J. on all vocals, the strength and spiritual passion in her voice has a pleasant similarity to Etta James, Aretha Franklin and Ruby Turner, which is used to great effect on “Hey You”, the swinging, scouring Howlin’ Wolf backbeat is in direct competition with an equally swinging and urging harmonica from executive producer Grady Champion.

An enjoyable mixture of Stax and Atlantic sounding horns accompany the raunchy “I Got What You Need”, while an understated harmonica keeps the wheels rolling. “My Kinda Man”, allows J.J.’s voice to create an intimate slow soulful atmosphere where she proudly tells the world about her very own soulmate.

The funkily groovy “No Turning Back”, takes us into woman scorned territory and without any doubt J.J. lets him have it with both barrels. “Can You Let Somebody Else Be Strong”, is a wonderful soulful blue slowburner, where J.J.’s vocals delicately and sweetly soar as she offers to help shoulder the load of her loved one.

There is no doubt that this is a powerful and hugely enjoyable debut, I look forward to more!

Highly Recommended!


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