Marion James

Marion James ain’t no kid. She had a top-10 hit (“That’s My Man”) way back in 1966, and on this reissue of a set of tunes she cut in 2003 she gives soul-drenched evidence of the dues she’s paid. Her voice is a little rough-edged, but that’s not a bad thing when a woman is singing the blues, giving vent to the pains of love on songs like “Tables,” or “I Should Have Known,” or “Please Don’t Waste My Time.” She’s sometimes referred to as Nashville’s Queen of the Blues, and the last couple of songs on this album are preceded by brief interviews about the greats she’s known, and the scene as it used to be. But this collection isn’t about nostalgia. As the title says, it’s about “essence”; the essence of people like James is in the music, and in the life the music has made for them. Fellow music lifer, jazz pianist Beegie Adair, one of James’ soulmates from way back, turns up on “You’re History, Baby.” Essence is a nice mix of jazz and blues, ably supported by great organ and piano work, and some very tasty guitar: late-night sounds for late-night listeners.