ROBIN MCKELLE AND THE FLYTONES
HEART OF MEMPHIS
DOXIE RECORDS/VIZZTONE VTDOX 20143
ABOUT TO BE YOUR BABY–GOOD TIME–PLEASE DON’T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD–CONTROL YOURSELF–FORGETTING YOU–HEART OF MEMPHIS–LIKE A RIVER–EASIER THAT WAY–WHAT YOU WANT–GOOD AND PLENTY–BABY YOUR THE BEST–DOWN WITH THE SHIP–IT’S OVER THIS TIME
Robin McKelle broke onto the contemporary scene in 2006, backed by a big band and releasing an album of jazz songs, but it wasn’t long until she began to follow her inner Muse and take chances with her music. In 2010 she recorded “Mess Around,” revisiting the styles of Leonard Cohen, Willie Dixon, and Pomus and Shuman. 2011 saw the release of “Soul Flower,” where she wrote most of her own material. Witness now the “Heart Of Memphis,” which further showcases her writing skills, and this is indeed a great set. Writing eleven of the thirteen cuts herein, she is paired with producer Scott Bomar of the Bo-Keys, the man behind many sessions from Al Green and Isaac Hayes.
Robin’s deeply-soulful vocals are a match made in heaven for her classic soul material, and Scott adds that vintage Stax/Hi vibe. The title cut reminds us that down in the “Heart Of Memphis, everybody treats you like family and the place feels just like home.” The horns and strings add the ambience, the band members set up the groove, and Robin’s voice does the rest. The leadoff cut is done in the tradition of Ann Peebles and Candi Staton, as Robin tells a would-be lover, “I was About To Be Your Baby, until you started actin’ shady!” She revisits classic smooth soul/blues with a wistful tale of love, back when “time didn’t matter and things were Easier That Way.” A clever play on words has her telling a cheatin’ lover that “I’ve got myself Good And Plenty of nothin’, when I fell in love with you!” The set closes with a powerful ballad, as another no-good man gets the boot for good, “It’s Over This Time.”
We had two favorites, too—one original and one cover. “Good Time” is a stone dancefloor burner tuned in to “the way it was back in ’68, when Ike and Tina made it great!” At the other end of the spectrum is a goose-bump-inducing read of O. B. McClinton’s “Forgetting You,” as Robin plays the heartbroken lover to the hilt.
Robin McKelle took the challenge of writing a full album of vintage soul/blues material, and “Heart Of Memphis” hits home. These songs are passionate and expressive instead of retro, and her vocal performance is topnotch! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.