King of Hearts
Two regal voices command center stage in this edition of Bluetones-King Ernest Baker and New Orleans soul queen Irma Thomas. Both represent exquisite examples of real-deal, emotion-drenched singing in the old school tradition.
On his powerful King Of Hearts (Evidence 26084-2; 46:17), Mississippi-born King Ernest alternates between raucous juke joint jumpers like Lester Butler's "Black Bag Blues" and soul-stirring offerings like the Otis Redding-styled ballad "Better Days," penned by Mick Jagger and Jimmy Rip. His reading of Charlie Musselwhite's "Long As I Have You" recalls vintage Bobby Blue Bland while the infectious shuffle "Tell Me What's The Reason" bounces along with T-Bone Walker vitality. And he delivers Hound Dog Taylor's "Sadie" with bone-chilling intensity. Baker scored his first success in the music business in the mid '60s, during which time he shared bills with the likes of James Brown and Wilson Pickett. By 1980 he retired from the business and took a straight job as a supervisor with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. He kept his vocal chops in shape singing gospel in a church choir and was recently re-discovered by L.A. blues promoter Randy Chortkoff, who lured King Ernest back into the spotlight. Long live the King.