Rockie Charles – Born For You | Album Review

Rockie Charles – Born For You

Orleans Records

CD: 11 Songs, 43:11 Minutes

Styles: Southern Soul, New Orleans Blues, Tribute Album

As a child, when I went on summer vacations with my family, I liked to look at the AAA Travel Guide for lodging. I discovered that it used “unpretentious” as a code word for a hotel or motel that was clean and serviceable, but offered no frills or luxury amenities. Orleans Records uses that same adjective to describe the Southern soul of the late Rockie Charles. It owes more to the influences of O.V. Wright and Al Green than it does to traditional blues or New Orleans R&B. His unpretentious style offers no showman’s tricks on either vocals or instrumentation. Charles is simply a solid crooner, and his accompanying ensemble isn’t trying for too much flash. If you compare the eleven original entrées on tribute album Born For You to local food in the Big Easy, it’s more like cornbread than jambalaya. There may not be a lot of spice or heat, but there’s lots of smooth, sweet flavor. Another drawback is that the lyrics are almost impossible to understand, so feel free to get lost in the mood. We lost Rockie in 2010. Eight years later, his legacy lives on.

“This CD was actually made as a response to a classified ad. A couple of years ago [the album’s copyright date is 1996,] Rockie Charles – ‘The President of Soul’ – placed an ad in a New Orleans entertainment directory basically to fish for a few gigs to play when he wasn’t commanding a tug boat. The ad caught the eye of Orleans Records’ producer, Carlo Ditta, who noted Rockie’s telephone exchange was similar to the one his parents had when he was growing up on the West Bank of New Orleans.” So states Jeff Hannusch, author of I Hear You Knockin’: The Sound of New Orleans Rhythm and Blues, in the liner notes of this release. He further quotes Charles himself: “‘I don’t remember not being around boats or playing music,’ said Rockie. ‘My dad was a trawler and he played the guitar. He was my inspiration.’”

Performing alongside guitarist/vocalist Rockie are Jerry Pekinto on bass; John Bonvillian Jr. on bass for tracks seven and twelve; Rick Allen and Wayne Lohr on organ; Tony D’Alessandro on drums; Fred Koella on lap steel; Jerry Embree on tenor sax; Sean Kenny on baritone sax; Wilber Tank on trumpet; Smoky Greenwell on harmonica; Carlo Ditta on tambourine; and Karlene Arena and Rhea Kahler on background vocals, snaps and claps.

The following song, the finest of Charles’ offerings, is a rather short tune with a rather long title.

Track 07: “I Need Your Love So Bad, I’m About to Lose My Mind” – Does love save one from insanity or drive one to insanity? In the case of our narrator, it’s the lack of love that’s sending him over the edge. With a great horn section and catchy refrain backed by Arena and Kahler, it’s also a danceable number reminiscent of Marvin Gaye and Isaac Hayes. Grab a partner, folks.

If you like smooth Southern Soul, dear readers, this Rockie Charles album was Born For You!

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