Lip Service (Vizzitone)
By Brian Arsenault
When this album started my first reaction was, “If Bonnie Raitt was Southern, this is what she’d sound like.” But that may just be my Yankee self talking, because what you really feel when you’re moving through Lip Service, E G Kight’s latest CD, is that you just walked into a small club sort of by chance and they had this kickass band playing with a great chick singer out front.
But you’d either have to be in Georgia or some place where an Allman Brothers kind of band was playing its way up North before they got famous. Kight’s songs move from country to blues and back again with an ease that’s mostly only found in Southern artists. She still lives on long time family land in Georgia.
Maybe that’s the proof that traditional country — not that contemporary junk country which is the new pop light — and the blues are not that far apart. White and black Southerners have been living together for a long time and it hasn’t all been Bull Connor and fire hoses. They listened to each other and what came out is among the best of American music.
I’ll start with the last track because in this case the best of the songs – almost all written by Kight — was saved for last. “I’m Happy With The One I Got Now” is maybe the most traditional blues song on the album. Kight’s oh so clear, clever, teasing voice is supported by great acoustic guitar work by Tommy Talton. Talton is perhaps the most notable of an excellent collection of sidemen playing on Lip Service.
The title song, with its nearly naughty lyrics and road house rock sound, could be recorded by the Rolling Stones in their bluesiest mood. In fact, drummer Bill Stewart reminds me more than once of Charlie Watts at his best.
The album kicks off with “Sugar Daddy” which brings a smile while talking about hard times. You know it’s hard times when the sugar daddies are giving pearls instead of diamonds. Of course, some of the best blues are about good times during bad times.
There’s also a Koko Taylor tribute in “Koko’s Song, and “Savannah” is a song about various kinds of “Georgia heat.” Phew, I thought only girls of color could pull off such sensuality in music — except for Janis.
Speaking of the great Joplin, in the opening bars of “That’s How A Woman Loves” I stopped breathing for a moment because I thought Janis lives again. But the vocal warps into a little Patsy Cline too.
Versatility is another Kight strength. Paul Hornsby’s “It’s Gonna Rain All Night” is a jazz song, a torch song in the best meaning of the phrase. Kight could do a whole album of songs like this and it would win Album of the Year in a couple categories at least.
And if the Stones could cover a couple of the songs on Lip Service, it made me sad that Otis Redding isn’t still around to cover “Somewhere Down Deep.” And when I mention Otis, it’s the highest praise I could offer for this recording.
More than a little production credit goes to Paul Hornsby. You know the standard phrases: “legendary producer” and the less effusive “veteran producer.” Instead, let me put it this way. Hornsby has produced a lot of terrific music by a lot of fine artists for a long time.
As I wrap up, I feel like maybe I haven’t said enough about E G Kight’s singing, which is so clear and so capable of irony, humor, pathos and just deep, deep feeling. But you really can’t just write about such good stuff. You have to hear it
Photo courtesy of E G Kight. Photo copyright by egkight.com
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