The Muscle Shoals Sessions
Among the South's many musical attractions, none seems to exert quite the pull of Alabama's Muscle Shoals, whose FAME studio in the '60s drew artists like Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and Etta James. Aretha Franklin's career was revitalized and given a new direction there thanks to FAME's studio-session musicians, among them organist Spooner Oldham, who pops up on several tracks here. Designed to “nail the spot where gospel, blues and R&B collide—and transform into soul,” The Muscle Shoals Sessions is an expanded version of an EP songstress Amy Black made a few years ago that now includes three originals. My favorite is her “Woman on Fire.” Set to a beat that mirrors her pulsating blood pressure, it's the story of a woman who's fixated on a musician (“don't be shy and don't be slow, c'mon and slide into my Chevy and we'll blow this show”). However, if he continues to ignore her, “there'll be nothin' left but a pile of ashes and a party dress.” Among the covers are terrific versions of Sam Cooke's “Bring It on Home,” Bob Dylan's “Gotta Serve Somebody,” “Uptight, Good Man” by Dan Penn/Oldham and heartfelt treatment of the traditional spiritual, “You Got to Move.” Great voice, great songs.