Sometimes just the sleeve of a recording is enough to indicate you've stumbled onto something crazy good. Although it happens less since the advent of the shrunken packaging of the CD era, there are still things you come across while flipping through second-hand stock that stop you dead in your tracks, much like the picture of the glaring Oneil Howes standing stoically against a tree on the sleeve of the Sings His Country Songs disc, released on his own Ponchatoula, Louisiana-based Memory Records label. It would be difficult to live up to that badass image and song titles like Is Your Innerworld Like Your Outerworld, I Never Knew How Elvis Felt and Where Was That God Of Love, but Howes delivers the truth-telling goods with an unfancy strum and the basic drum thump of a home-recording one-man band. There are no liner notes, naturally, but self-revealing songs originally cut in 1978 like To The Music World Unknown and Tom Catin' are quite informative.
Jazzman at 50
When Gerald Short began reissuing hard-to-find jazz, funk and soul obscurities on his Jazzman 7-inch reissue label back in 98, many people thought it would be a matter of a couple of cool sound-library oddities and gone. But Jazzman recently hit the big 5-0 and celebrated the milestone with the reissue of the long-out-of-print debut of Kathleen Emery 's brilliantly building version of Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child, with a significantly less mindblowing Quantic remix on the flip. Since an original Love label copy of Emery's finest moment will cost you four bills, and even the first Jazzman reissue goes for $25 or more, it's good to see this back in circulation. Even more exciting are Jazzman's two amazing new 12-inchers by contemporary artists, Radio City ingenue Bajka and funk über-group Das Goldene Zeitalter (boasting members of the Soul Destroyers , Poets of Rhythm and the Heliocentrics ), which suggest that the label's best releases are yet to come.
The last time I was chillin' with Hi Records mainman Willie Mitchell at his Royal Studio in Memphis, I asked him if there was one artist he wanted to produce but didn't during Hi's mid-70s peak with Al Green and Ann Peebles. Without any hesitation, he said " Rance Allen - the man had a beautiful voice. He could sing anything." If you want to find out what so impressed Mitchell, check out the just-released collection of Allen's gospel tunes recorded for Stax between 1971 and 75, selected by fellow Stax singer/songwriter Deanie Parker (who also runs the Stax Museum) for Concord/Universal 's new Stax Profiles series. The series also includes similarly ace best-ofs from the Staples Singers , Little Milton , Rufus Thomas , Eddie Floyd and others. Unfortunately for modern soul fans, the 16-track Allen comp doesn't include anything from his Mizell Brothers-produced Say My Friend album, but there's still a lot of Rance to rave about.