Alex Hahn & The Blue Riders | The Wallflower: A Tribute To Etta James
Release:2013 | 320 kbps44.1 Khz | MP3 | 100 Mb
Genre: Blues Soul
01. Tell Mama (2:24)
02. Tough Lover (2:02)
03. I'd Rather Go Blind (4:28)
04. Don't Cry (4:40)
05. I Just Wanna Make Love To You (3:42)
06. Baby What You Want Me To Do (4:31)
07. A Sunday Kind Of Love (3:30)
08. Roll With Me Henry (3:29)
09. You Can Leave Your Hat On (3:51)
10. Trust In Me (3:00)
11. God's Song (4:19)
12. At Last (3:16)
To pay tribute to any artist by releasing an album covering their songs is a brave step. The kicker is that any artist worth paying tribute to is usually a one-offan utter original - in effectuncopyable. When the artist is Etta Jamesthe brave step veers close to kamikaze.
James was a restlesstroubled and driven soulwho blazed through a wild and rocky careerbouncing from gospel to blues to rock and rollwriting the book on cap-S Soul styling along the way. To pay tribute to such a chimeric and meteoric talent in a meaningful way is a tall ask.
Butif the tribute is done with love and a sense of celebration - as Darren Percival recently did with his Ray Charles album - it can work like a charm.
Sydney soul singerAlex Hahn‘s new release The Wallflower - named for the ‘polite' renaming of James' sexually explicit ‘Roll With Me Henry' (which appears here) - works. In fact it works like a ***ing voodoo charm.
Hahn - one of Sydney music's best kept secrets - has put together one hell of an album covering all of the styles that Etta James chewed up and spat out in her career of almost six decades. From the rolling blues of ‘Baby What You Want Me to Do?' (with its growling vocalese solo) through the boppin' rock'n'roll of ‘Tough Lover' and minor key gospel of Randy Newman‘s ‘God's Song'Hahn and her band never hit a weak spot.alex hahn2
A mention here needs to go to the band - The Blue Riders - who easily capture the vibe of the songbe it a pumping Motown strut like opener ‘Tell Mama' (Janis Joplin also paid tribute to Etta with her own version in the early 70s)or the evergreen (everblue?) Etta James staples‘I'd Rather Go Blind' or shimmering alum closer ‘At Last' (special mention here - and across the whole record - to guitarist Charlie Meadows who reads the songs' intent and vibe beautifully; limpid or bullying accompaniment could kill these tunesand he shines on every track).
But of courseit is Alex Hahn who has taken the kamikaze step - it is her voice and the sincerity behind her delivery on which The Wallflower will be judged. While it would be unfair - and missing the point - to directly compare these tracks to Etta James' versionsone rightly expects the same tough/softfiesty/sweetrockin'/weepin' complexities (the same that go for all the greats such as Bille Holliday and Joplin) to be preserved in Hahn's interpretations.
To my earnot only are they preserved intactbut they are built on - the band and Hahn grabbing many of the tracks by the mane and taking them higher.
And this is where the sense of celebration comes in and entirely vindicates The Wallflower project. It is one thing to get the music and groove right and replicate towering songs such as these - but it is merely replicationcover versions in the most base sense.
It is entirely another to generate the passioninsecuritiesbruises and lionheart of a truly iconic performer such as Etta James and to let that blaze up through the blues or rock or gospel or whatever format the songs take. Alex Hahn with The Blue Riders have done it on The Wallflowerpainting a bright and vivid portrait of a multi-dimensional artist in the best way possible - with their own voice.
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