Artist: Vaneese Thomas
Album: The Long Journey Home
Release Date: 09/16/2016
Vaneese Thomas re-established her soul blues status, earning two Blues Music Award nominations for 2014’s Blues for My Father, named, of course for the legendary Rufus Thomas. As this title suggests, she continues on this path, delving even deeper into her Memphis roots. You might question my choice of the word; “re-establish” so let me explain a bit more about Thomas’ career. Surely the soul, R&B and blues have always been there, but at the same time, Thomas has built a multi-faceted career that includes film and television. She is a producer and a first call vocalist by projects from big name artists. Consider this array of artists she has sung with: Luciano Pavarotti, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Celine Dion and Eric Clapton just to name a few. We could go on for paragraphs about all the different projects involving Thomas, but let’s get to the music.
Eleven of the dozen tunes were written or co-written by Thomas, were recorded by her soulful road band and produced by her and her husband, Wayne Warnecke. She was intent on painting a sonic picture of her hometown, Memphis, and as such delivers the R&B sounds of Beale Street clubs, raw juke joint blues and southern gospel. Her sister Carla was a huge artist for Stax and right away in the opening “Sweet Talk Me,” that same classic vibe is evident. “Sat’day Night on the River” summons up a roaring, sweaty dance hall party replete with saxophone and sing-along choruses from the background vocalists. Contemporary soul is captured in “Mystified,” easily one of the album’s best tracks. She stays contemporary and becomes topical with “The More Things Change,” which celebrates the civil rights movement and reminds us that we still have much work to do, especially given recent events. “Prince of Fools” shows her more feminine side and is yet another excellent track in an album of gems. She adds country, to the point of using banjos and fiddles in “Country Funk,” and tackles blues-rock in “I Got a Man from TN.”
Just when you think you’ve exhausted these varied styles, she ends the album with these three: the harmonica-driven joyful stomper “Revelation,” her piano led gospel oriented “Mean World” and a surprising acoustic cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” This is top shelf music that will surely earn more Blues Music Award nominations, and maybe even attract Grammy notice.
– Jim Hynes
Stream “Sweet Talk Me” HERE.