Saturday, September 09, 2006

Soul-Blues Saturday: Get on Down With Jimmy Lewis!

Jimmy Lewis:

No Chicken Wings

Wife #1, Wife #2

My discussion of Jimmy Lewis and his career appeared in an earlier post, and I'll refer you to it. As mentioned there, Lewis' career as a performing artist was at its most prolific when he started his Miss Butch label in the 1990s. Through 2004, Lewis released a nice series of albums which stuck to his "barber shop philosopher" style of songwriting and his Ray Charles-meets-Sam Cooke vocal style. Sometimes he covered older recordings such as "String Bean" and "Still Wanna Be Black" (an unreleased Hotlanta recording which served as the title track of Kent's first CD of Lewis reissues), but mainly featured a mixture of novelties (like today's selection "No Chicken Wings"), love songs and cheating songs, and songs about the "real world" issues people face (like "Wife #1, Wife #2"). These tunes were well-received by soul-blues fans and got good airplay on soul-blues radio. There used to be an aircheck online of Millie Jackson on Dallas radio, playing "That Baby Ain't Black Enough" (a song along the lines of Swamp Dogg's "Mama's Baby, Daddy's Maybe") and then remarking about how Lewis could write a song about anything ("I dropped my biscuit," Jackson jokingly sang). Lewis' death in 2005 took from us one of soul's greatest songwriters.

"No Chicken Wings" came from his Never Met a Woman I Didn't Like CD and features Lewis working a double-entendre about fried chicken to its full effect. The tune is total novelty (I can't help but think if Joe Tex were alive, he'd do this song in a heartbeat), and you know you're in trouble from the spoken intro: "I ain't seen this many fine women at one time since they closed down the welfare office!" "Wife #1, Wife #2," from his second-to-last CD Soup Bone is a more serious tune. Over a nice background (featuring a boxing referee's "break it up" as a sample), Lewis discusses the difficulties of having a blended family. It's the sho' 'nuff truth, and he gives it his usual warmth and wisdom.

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