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June 2003

Etta James
Let's Roll
Private Music

The queen of the blues is on a roll. Last year, Etta James eclipsed a lifetime of riotous live dates with the blistering Burnin' Down the House. Since then, she's been welcomed into the elite circle of NARAS Lifetime Achievement award winners and has earned a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Never one to rest on her laurels, the 65-year-old pioneer returns to her rock 'n' roll roots with Let's Roll (Private Music/BMG). A nod from one hero to another, this collection of hard-rockin' anthems borrows its title from September 11 victim Todd Beamer, who galvanized the passengers of Flight 93 with those two brave words. James, like Beamer, is a testament to all-American fearlessness. At an age when most of her contemporaries would be hard-pressed to find the kitchen, she's still cookin' up a storm, serving up slice after rare (occasionally raw) slice of blunt honesty and resolute feistiness. Listening to James strut across Delbert McClinton's "Somebody to Love" or maneuver the slippery curves of Billy Wright's "Stacked Deck," it's impossible not to be reminded that brazen originality has been her stock-in-trade ever since she rolled with Henry back in 1954. "I come from rock 'n' roll," she says, "and once you get that groove you never forget it." Amen to that.

Originally published in June 2003
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