Sister Lucille – Tell the World
Blue Heart Records – 2023
10 tracks – 43 minutes
First it should be established that there is no one in the band named Lucille. The band consists of Kimberly Deal on lead vocals, Jamie Holdren on guitar and vocals, Kevin Lyons on drums & percussion, and Reed Herron on bass. Chris Stephenson is shown a s a guest playing keyboards and the B3. Kimberly debuted at the Opry at the Ryman Theater as a teenager and opened for country singer Kitty Wells.
The group name although not directly established in any information provided by the group might have originated from the name of B.B. King’s guitar, Lucille. This determination comes solely from the fact that one of the songs on this their sophomore album, is titled “My Name Is Lucille”, which tells the story of how the name came to be applied to King’s guitar.
The group calls their music “Memphunk”, a reference to the roots, soul and blues music that flows out of Memphis but is enhanced by their own spin adding a funk and jam sound to the mix. While the band originates from Springfield, Missouri, their sound captures the music of Memphis, and the group made their debut on Beale Street in 2014. Their debut album, Alive, charted for 22 months on the Roots Music Report’s Top 50 Blues-rock albums and finished at #10 of the top 200 albums on 2020 year-end chart. Each of the eleven songs on that album hit the Top 50 songs at different times, and three received regular play on Sirius/XM’s Bluesville. The album was also selected for Blues Blast’s Award for Debut Album in 2020.
Songstress Reba Russell and Dawn Hopkins, her partner in Blue Heart Records, recorded, engineered and co-produced the album. Reba also provided one of her songs and performs a duet with Kimberly on the song. Peter Climie on sax, Will Palaldino on trumpet and Freedman Steorts on trombone guest to provide a horn section on the album.
On the opening title track, Kimberly’s excitedly announces she has found a new love and she wants to “Tell the World”, and Jamie’s wah-wah guitar provides a powerful run with Al Gamble guesting on organ on the cut and the horns weaving through the sound. Kimberly remorsefully admits her sorrow “Every Time I Leave ” and misses “your blues eyes and your smile”. Jamie Holdren takes the vocal lead, demonstrating a powerful tenor, and noting that she is “Breakin’ My Heart” as she “pushes my love away”.
As mentioned previously, Reba Russell performs a duet with Kimberly on Reba’s song, “Why Not You”. Jamie pulls out the slide guitar and lets it rip as the twosome announces the power of women who should “lift their voices/ lead the nation”. “Women together cannot fail.” as a total declaration of woman power is declared.
On “My Name Is Lucille”, Kimberly recites the background story of B.B. King’s Gibson ES-330 guitar. Kimberly becomes the voice of the guitar as she declares “I loved the King/ he knew just how to bend my strings.” and “He had a gentle feel”. The song is very sexy and certainly invokes a feeling of love between the musician and the instrument. A casual listener might even just accept it as a touching love song.
“Montezuma Red” was a bright red lipstick, perhaps similar to the color Kimberley wears on the album cover, that was developed in 1941 to match the red piping on women’s military uniforms of the era. Kimberley notes the color is a symbol of power and the song is a backlash against a lover who maybe is trying to control her. That theme continues as Jamie’s guitar lashes out, and he provides the vocals on “Devil in a Red Suit” about an untrustworthy and slippery character.
Kimberly comes back to the mike on a country shuffle “Ready for the Times to Get Better” that was originally recorded by Crystal Gayle in 1976 in a song flagging past bad times and looking forward to a better future. On “My New Lovers”, Kimberley proclaims, “I’m not a one-man woman, I need a lot of lovin'” and compares the loving she gets from several named suitors. The album ends with a powerful version of “Soulful Dress”, a Chess soul recording first released in 1964 and covered by a number of artists over the years including Marcia Ball and more recently Ana Popovic. Sister Lucille lets the whole band loose on the number that would certainly get you on the dance floor and just as certainly get you bouncing around in front of the stereo.
Kimberly’s strong alto and Jamie’s guitar work along with a great rhythm section and supporting horn section make for an enjoyable album.