Jackie Johnson

Jackie Johnson
Memphis Jewel

Catfood Records

By David Hayward
September 2011

R&B lovers, are you looking for a fresh voice? Die-hard blues fans, are you looking for change of pace? Then look no further than Jackie Johnson’s Memphis Jewel from El Paso, Texas-based Catfood Records. Surrounded by richly produced, multilayered orchestration and vocal harmonies, she delivers a varied collection of warm, sweet and sometimes funky songs about love, longing and learning life’s hard lessons.

Unlike many contemporary R&B divas that rely on vocal pyrotechnics to impress you, Ms. Johnson’s clear, effortless delivery and round notes are convincing. With a gospel and soul background, she doesn’t over-use her strong pipes. When she turns up the juice or hits a high note, she uses just the right touch to tug your heart strings or snatch a star from the sky. Eleven tracks in all, this modern Memphis and Motown-styled album delivers sophisticated and solid arrangements of some well-known R&B covers and originals by Jackie Johnson herself and the music-makers at Catfood Records.

Here’s a glimpse at what makes Memphis Jewel sparkle:

“It Should Have Been Me” a cover of Gladys Knight’s hit. The band and vocal tell the story of missed opportunity with masterful orchestration that builds, wanes and returns with renewed force.

“Nothing Lasts Forever” written by Catfood Record’s Bob Trenchard. A jazzy-funky tune built on the classic “She’s Not There” chord progression. Jackie’s smoky voice is warmly wrapped by horns, piano, guitar and Hammond B3. “Oo-oo” back-up vocals provide the goose bumps.

“Do Ya” written by Jackie Johnson. Sexy. Light the candles, pour the wine and open your heart to someone with this tune.

“Clean-Up Woman” A smooth and funky take on Betty Wright’s 70’s tune. Performed here by a well-greased rhythm machine. Put on your high-heeled sneakers and hit the dance floor.

“Brightside” Written by Abner Burnett, Jackie and her entourage cook up some good gumbo with this New Orleans-style shuffle. Plenty of snare drum, slide guitar and piano.

“Wash Your Hands” Written by Catfood Records' Bob Trenchard. A powerful gospel treatment about love, lust and the road to redemption.

Let’s hope that Ms. Johnson and her collaborators from Catfood Records travel north to spread her religion in person.

After listening to Memphis Jewel, one wonders what else Catfood Records has in its treasure chest.

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