Vaneese Thomas – Down Yonder | Album Review

Vaneese Thomas – Down Yonder

Segue Records

12 tracks

Vaneese Thomas brings over 30 years of experience to this fine recording of all original tunes.  Daughter of the legendary Rufus Thomas, Vaneese wrote or had a hand in crafting each of these songs.  She recorded these songs in two sessions, the first in New York at Peaceful Studios with Wayne Warnecke, her longtime partner, and some splendid musicians.  The latter session was in her hometown of Memphis with another host of great musicians. Shawn Pelton on drums and Will Lee on bass were in NY, both of television band fame.  Al Orlo was on guitar and Robbie Kondor was on keys.  In Memphis, Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, Reverend Charles Hodges, Marc Franklin, Kirk Smothers and The Bo-Keys horns, and sister Carla Thomas all partook in the tunes.  Special guest Kevin Bacon also performs a duet with Vaneese; a long time friend, he joins her for this nice duet here on her eighth album.

Things get going with “Ebony Man,” the story of a sharecropper who struggles to make a life with his 40 acres and a mule.  Tash Neal adds his skills on dobro as Thomas sings with emotion and power in this moving piece.  The horn section appears next in “I Tried,” a sultry and sexy song of love lost.  Thomas again sings with pure emotion and the horns and band provide ample support in this, another exceptional tune. “Highway of Regret” follows, a slow tune about love that drifted away.  Katy Jacoby adds violin, which adds to the somber mood as Vaneese testifies to her woes. The pace quickens with a throbbing beat on “Wake Me.” The horns blaze as Thomas sings stridently and Reverend Hodges makes the B3 sing.   Orlo lays out some slick licks on guitar here, too. “Second Chance,” where her sister and Benita Miles sing with her and the Reverend plays some more nice B3, is a sweet mid-tempoed R&B cut. “Mama He Loves Me” rounds out the first half of the tunes, a passionate and gritty cut of a daughter telling her mother of her man’s infidelity.  Thomas’ singing emotes the pain that the story tells.  Well done.

“Lies” is a cut about just what the title says.  Unlike the former song where she hurts and frets over her cheating man, here she goes on the offensive about her man’s cheating. Funky and direct, Thomas shows us different emotions here as she growls out the lead. The backing vocalists also do a nice job as do the guitar, horns, piano and all involved. “Handle Me Gently” is pretty ballad about a woman asking for tenderness as Thomas once again sings with the depth and breath of her emotions. Bacon joins her on “Legacy Of Pain,” a very cool cut about the unprosecuted Mississippi murders.  Bacon compliments Thomas well as both sing about the lack of justice being served.  Guitar and piano do a fine job in support here. “Last Kiss” is Memphis soul that hearkens to the days of STAX and the great soul sound.  Horns, guitar,piano and vocals intertwine for a really special sound. “Gone” is next, a cut that mixes the revival tent with super Gospel blues.  The hand claps and percussion bring you to the tent’s altar as Thomas moans out the lead. The guitar solo adds to the mix as Thomas nails yet another emotional piece.  Vaneese concludes with the title track with Orlo on acoustic guitar and Tash Neal on electric guitar/slide. An autobiographical tune, Thomas sings about returning home.  Her sister and friend return backing Thomas as the three drive the tune to a big and quite emotional finish.

I loved this CD. I first played it and was really impressed.  I played it for my wife who was equally impressed.  We listened to it several times together, enjoying the performance and original music.  Thomas has done a truly exceptional job with this, her eighth album.  There is absolutely nothing here not to like.  A woman with a fantastic voice, musicians who know what blues and soul and R&B are all about, and a well-mixed effort technically make this one to remember.  I most highly recommend this CD!

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