Picking up where my fellow AB Editor, Heather Green, left off, it’s time to go deep y’all. Now I’ll admit, some of the songs on this list are more about what touches my soul than what might be considered traditional Soul, but we all know sometimes you gotta feel the funk just as much as you gotta get down to it. So, I’ve included some Blues classics as well. Read on to learn more about this week’s picks, or if you’re ready for some music, head on over to Spotify for this week’s playlist.
North Carolina: Betty Davis, They Say I’m Different
In honor of Hoechella, we’ll start this week’s mix with this anthem from Betty Davis reminding us to let our true selves shine.
Florida: Della Humphrey, Don’t Make the Good Girls Go Bad
Della Humphrey is a legend of Soul in the truest sense. Her recordings are rare, and a search for her music and biography turns up only the slimmest information. She first gained attention as a 12-year-old in Miami, but I had a hard time finding out anything else. On a recent visit to the local record shop, however, I was lucky to find her powerful voice included on Soul Jazz Records’ Studio One Women: The Original Right Around The World. Though I couldn’t find that particular track on Spotify, Don’t Make the Good Girls Go Bad is another song that really showcases Della’s unique vocal style.
These next four tunes take me back to hot summer days and long car ride sing-alongs with my mom as we made our way to the beaches of South Carolina’s Barrier Islands.
South Carolina: The Flirtations, Nothing but a Heartache
Louisiana: Irma Thomas, Somebody Told You
South Carolina: Maxine Brown, Sugar Dumplin’
Louisiana: Tami Lynn, Mojo Hannah
Louisiana: Sweet Emma Barrett, A Good Man is Hard to Find
Speaking of road trips, in 2012, I made my first, of what I hope will be many, pilgrimages to New Orleans. As any true music lover would, before making my way to hear the newer sounds of Frenchmen Street, I made sure to visit Preservation Hall. There I was introduced to the music of one of The Hall’s original performers, Sweet Emma Barrett.
Alabama: Big Mama Thornton, Ball ‘n Chain
There are two influential women who led me to the music of this Big Mama Thornton. Of course you may instantly think of Janis Joplin, whose cover of Ball ‘n Chain is part of her own legendary status. But as a high school student, if it was a Tuesday night and I felt myself feeling more feelings than I knew what to do with, I’d hop in my car and turn on local DJ, Clair De Lune. Her Blues Moon Radio show introduced me to Big Mama, and as she did for Janis before me, the Godmother of Rock n’ Roll let me know I could feel whatever I needed to, and I could be as loud as my voice willed me to be.
Louisiana: Bettye Swann, Angel of the Morning
Oh, and if you’re in need of an old-fashioned, therapeautic ugly cry, Angel of the Morning has always done it for me. Bettye Swann’s version is no exception.
North Carolina: Etta Baker, Going Down the Road Feeling Bad
Finally, as summer turns to fall, I often find myself reminiscing about the years I spent in the mountain towns of Western North Carolina. Most people know Appalachia is home to the Scotch-Irish traditions that gave birth to Bluegrass, but those mountains have plenty of “soul”too. From one of the region’s preeminent Blues pickers, here’s Etta Baker’s version of Going Down The Road Feeling Bad.
The Complete Playlist