Betty Padgett – Ridin’ with the Blues | Album Review

Betty Padgett – Ridin’ with the Blues

Meia Publishing

10 songs – 38 minutes

A vocalist who grew up in the church and first tasted success in the disco era, Betty Padgett has been working tirelessly in the South Florida blues scene since the early ‘70s, and returns to the spotlight with this set, a welcome return to the studio after an eight-year absence.

Shortly after high school, she became enamored with guitarist Joey Gilmore and his band, the T.C.B. Express, auditioned as their featured singer and spending 17 years in their lineup, during which Joey captured band-of-the-year honors at the 2006 International Blues Challenge.

A New Jersey native who moved to Florida in sixth grade, Betty mixes blues, soul, gospel and funk into her act. She debuted as a recording artist in 1974 with the 45-rpm “My Eyes Adore You/Love Forever” on Weed Beat following it up with the 12-in. single “Sugar Daddy” on Ultra Records in 1977, a regional hit that eventually was picked up by Pepsi and provided the soundtrack for a regional commercial.

That tune anchored Padgett’s eponymous first LP on the Luv n’ Haight imprint two years later. This is the sixth album in her catalog and the first since I Didn’t Take Your Man (You Gave Him to Me) on Music Access in 2013. This disc was released on the cusp of Betty becoming the first woman of color to capture the top prize in the South Florida Blues Society IBC competition. She hopes to follow in Gilmore’s footsteps when the COVID-delayed big event takes place in Memphis this May.

Joey is one of three top-notch guitarists whose licks are featured on this one along with two other fret masters she works with locally: Skip Turner and the exceptionally gifted Bobby Nathan, a native New Yorker who worked behind dozens of national talents, served as the band leader at Max’s Kansas City and owned and operated Unique Recording Studios — where hip-hop was born – for decades. The remainder of the lineup as well as song credits are absence from the barebones album sleeve.

“Old School Blues” lopes out of the gate with a heavy two-four beat before Betty pleasantly weathered mid-range voice urges listeners to party with her with the Watutsi, Mashed Potato, Jerk and more on the dance floor. It flows into medium-paced shuffle, “I Don’t Want Nobody,” a misleading title because Padgett only feels that way when the man “don’t want me.”

The music takes on a Memphis feel for the unhurried “Call Me.” Dealing with unrequited love, it describes a man who seems unable to recognize the passion in the lady’s look each time they meet or the electricity that courses from her head to her feet. A burning six-string run with keyboard and harp accompaniment open “Cross Roads” in which Padgett finds herself at a turning point after her man walks out the door before the action heats up and her mood changes with “He’s My Man” as Betty confronts another woman who doesn’t recognize that the guy she’s hitting on isn’t showing interest but is just being polite.

“Everybody Wanna Dance” serves up a tip of the hat for folks who like to move and groove before Padgett announces she’s “Looking for a Good Man” who’s more interested than making love – “it’s all about me and you.” Up next, the timbre changes dramatically for the minor-key pleaser, “All My Sick Days,” which finds Betty checking her makeup after a night of romance and realizing she’s so smitten with the guy that he’s going to make her use up all her paid days off from her job.

“Let Me Come Back Home,” an unhurried, guitar-driven ballad, finds Padgett regretful after straying with another guy before “Chess Records” longs for the days when the Windy City label dominated the airwaves and serves up tributes to Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, Etta James and more to bring the disc to a close.

The skintight rhythms don’t change much from one song to the next and the messages are familiar, but if you’re a fan of old-school blues, there’s a lot to like with this one.

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