Swann: "Bettye Swann"
Bettye Swann is remembered by anyone other than soul
obsessives, it is for her chart-topping hit "Make
Me Yours" from 1967. Hopefully, this collection
will open a few ears to the low-key, genre-bending singer
who blended the full-bodied gritty sound of Southern
soul and the smooth sheen of soul from the urban North.
It covers the years 1968 to 1970, after she left Money
Records and set up shop with Capitol and producer Wayne
Shuler. The union did not provide any hits, but the
body of work is quite impressive. Swann was equally
adept at slinky, sassy uptown soul like "(My Heart
Is) Closed for the Season," "Cover Me,"
and "You're Up to Your Old Tricks Again" as
well as down-home, heartbroken ballads like "Little
Things Mean a Lot," the bluesy "Don't Touch
Me," and Otis Redding's "These Arms of Mine,"
but also unique blends of styles like her Baroque soul
take on the Bee Gees' "Words" and her countrified
funk version of Marvin Gaye's "Ain't It Peculiar."
Mandeville: "Red Top"
"If you think of modern day blues-rockers, a "swing"
approach is usually not in the mix -- just your standard
12-bar blues. But Liz Mandeville's 2008 release, Red Top,
shows that the singer/guitarist is dedicated to merging
both old-time styles together. Playing on a rather un-bluesy
six-string (an Ibanez -- which is usually reserved for
heavy metal speed demons), Mandevillle also throws a full
horn section into the mix, resulting in some of the more
full-sounding blues-rock of recent times. Examples include
the album-opening title track (which is also arguably
the album's best track), "My Baby's Her Baby Too"
(which features some pretty darn impressive Albert King-esque
lead work), and the simply blaring "Guilty of Rockin'
All Night." Liz Mandeville may be one of the few
female blues-rockers of the early 21st century, but Red
Top easily measures up to the rest of the pack."