Review: Vaneese Thomas – Blues For My Father

Posted on: Sunday, Sep 21, 2014

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Vaneese Thomas – Blues For My Father

(Segue Records: SRVT2014)

Vaneese is the daughter of the legendary Memphis bluesman Rufus Thomas and sister to Carla and Marvell who both achieved greatness and recognition at the legendary Stax label. Although Vaneese supplied backing vocals for her father and sister at Stax during her early years, soon after finishing college she left Memphis altogether apart from a brief stay during the seventies she permanently left to reside in New York, where she pursued her own musical ambitions.

Over the years her all encompassing talents have seen her recording in differing, genres which include r&r, jazz and gospel. Her other talents include, writing, producing and providing arrangements for more contemporary artists such as: Patti Austin, Melba Moore, Freddie Jackson, Bob James, Larry Coryell and Diana Ross. She has also, in the past provided vocal accompaniment to artists such as; Luciano Pavarotti, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Celine Dion and Eric Clapton.

Branching out, Vaneese has worked extensively in the world of voice over work for film and television. She was one of the original founders of the Swarthmore College Alumni Gospel Choir and continues to direct the Alumni Gospel Choir.

As a result of her time spent over the past few years teaching music studies at City College of New York she decided it was time to pay homage to her own personal musical heritage.

There are twelve numbers on the album, two of which are duets “Wrong Turn”, is with her sister Carla, this is an enticing slice of classic Stax soul with her brother Marvell providing the underpinning and atmospheric keyboard backbone while the sisters vocally swoop, soar and glide, their enticing, entwining voices are an absolute delight to the ears.  The second “Can’t Ever Let You Go”, is with her late father, his vocal is taken from a 1962 track, the number is a heartfelt and spine tingling delight, slow rising and punching horns ride over bubbling organ and a rich picking guitar while their voices emotionally and almost virtually merge together as one.

“When My Baby Gets Home”, is a lovely stompin’ horn and organ southern soul tale of failed love and the lady taking flight! More tales of emotional woe are recounted in the stridently funky horn led urban “Love’em and Leave Them Behind”. “Southern Girl”, is testament to Vaneese‘s roots reminding us of the slinky, sultry, sounds of the south. On the funkin,’ slowly, strutting, swampy “The Old Man Down The Road”, is where Vaneese more than gives Tina Turner a run for her money in the sultry temptress stakes.

Where most of the album focuses on sweet southern soul “Blue Ridge Blues”, is a master class in pain and suffering, an acoustic guitar deftly describes the sparse and empty emotional landscape while over the top Vaneese passionately pleads to have her loved one come back and salve  the pain in her soul.

Essential!

BRIAN HARMAN

www.vaneesethomas.com

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