Amy Black has always been drawn to soul singers, but her initial recorded forays, One Time and This Is Home, leaned more toward Americana and country than rhythm and blues. When she began exploring her own Southern roots for her previous album, The Muscle Shoals Sessions, she found her musical sweet spot, and headed for the place where blues and soul converge—and where she herself was conceived.
Traveling from her Nashville home to Soulsville U.S.A., Black joined forces with several top musical architects to lay down the sound and album she was meant to make: Memphis. On seven originals and three well-chosen covers, Black goes from silky smooth to raw and rough, balancing Saturday-night sultriness with Sunday-morning gospel.
Amy Black told Elmore: “When I first sent my producer, Scott Bomar, the songs I had for the album, I didn’t send him this one. I had forgotten that I wrote it. It was half done and I’d left it behind. I had never gotten to the point of writing it down. I’d recorded part of it on my phone in a Home Depot parking lot and more, later that night while soaking in the tub. Weeks later, when I realized I needed a few more of my original songs for the album, I went back to my phone to see what I’d recorded. I found, “It’s Hard to Love an Angry Man” and was like, “Yeah, yeah, I like this one.
“When it was time to record, it was pretty clear that this was my tribute to Bobby Blue Bland. Amazingly, when I wrote the song, I hadn’t yet listened through Bobby’s full catalogue. When I did listen through (and fell in love with his music), I was surprised at how much the feel of my song was similar to several of his — ones that were my new favorites. It was a great feeling. I was channeling Bobby before I knew about him.
“Someone asked me about the topic, “Have you loved an angry man?” Honestly, I have not. My guy is about as sweet as they come. But being a sensitive gal, I tend to make a connection with other people’s struggles and challenges. I don’t claim to know what they go through, but I can go pretty deep into what it might be like. In this song, the singer feels powerless, unable to leave a relationship that is clearly no good — getting suckered back in every time by sweet words, knowing they won’t last long. The intensity of the song, both musically and topically, is pretty clear. Sadness, frustration, angst, powerlessness. Feelings I know, even without trying to love an angry man.”
Memphis was recorded old-school analog style and feature Hi Records greats on many of the 10 tracks, including drummer Howard Grimes, the Rev. Charles Hodges (piano and Hammond B3), his brother, Leroy “Flick” Hodges (bass), and with Stax guitarist Bobby Manuel.