Jackie Payne Steve Edmonson Band

Jackie Payne Steve Edmonson Band
Master of the Game

Delta Groove Records DGP CD110

By Art Tipaldi
March 2007

One of the brightest notes recently in the blues genre is the founding of the Delta Groove Record label by Randy Chortkoff, who has been an integral part of the LA blues scene for many years.

He’s been behind the curtain for countless events as the producer and promoter of concerts featuring some of the biggest and most respected names in the blues, including Albert King and Otis Rush, along with Chicago blues legends Jimmy Rogers, Billy Boy Arnold, Carey Bell, Snooky Pryor, Louis and Dave Myers of the Aces, and many others. He also produced the annual Little Walter Tribute concerts in LA for over a decade.

In 2004, Chortkoff founded the label with the mandate to keep traditional blues alive, and, at the same time, to discover those young artists who are poised to carry the blues torch into this new millennium.

With a West Coast roster that includes Rod and Honey Piazza, the Mannish Boys, Kirk Fletcher, Mitch Kashmar, Kid Ramos, Johnny Dyer, Finis Tasby, the Hollywood Fats band, AKA the Hollywood Blue Flames, Johnny Long, and the Phantom Blues Band, Taj Mahal’s all-star ensemble, Chortkoff and his expertly produced records are a welcome addition to modern recorded blues. His label and artists collected 12 Blues Music Awards in 2006, and another 10 this year.

That’s an accomplishment few labels can boast.

Chortkoff understands that there are worthy musicians who are working hard to keep other traditional forms of American music alive. One of the best-kept secrets on the West Coast is soul blues legend Jackie Payne, and his musical partner, guitarist Steve Edmonson.

Payne’s 40-year soul journey has taken him from his Atlanta birthplace through Houston, and finally, as the frontman for the past 15 years in the Johnny Otis Revue.

For more than 20 years, Edmonson has become one of the pillars of soul and blues guitar in the Bay area.

When you put these two giants together, you get a gorgeous mixture of the velvety soul voices of Otis Redding, Solomon Burke, and Bobby Blue Bland seamlessly blended with the traditional guitar sounds of John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, and Steve Cropper. Add in the massive Sweet Meet Horns, arranged by sax player Carl Green, and you’ve got a soul record that demands dancin’ around the house.

The Payne Edmonson soul revue starts with Edmonson’s “Mean Evil Woman,” a

double-timed, Hooker-style horn-and-guitar boogie. On the title track, Payne employs a Bobby Blue Bland growl, while Edmonson rips off some strapping B.B. King single string work. When these masters of the soul game turn down the lights on “A Fool Named Me,” Payne, like the soul greats of yesterday, lets down his manly self confidence to plead his mistakes. This honest bearing of the soul is the heart of the great soul music.

On “Wake Me Up In San Francisco,” Payne pays aerial respect to the city he loves and the woman he’s comin’ home to see. When the lights again shine on the dancers, Edmonson and his Elmore James-styled guitar lay smokin’ rubber on the highway to visit his “Woman In Kansas City.”

Payne and Edmonson also tackle some soul blues chestnuts.

Nothing will get the feet tappin’ faster then O.V. Wright’s now classic, “A Nickel And A Nail.” Payne’s sweet soul cover of Steve Cropper’s “Just The One,” comes directly from the Stax Studios in Memphis. On “Warm Rain Fallin’,” Payne’s deep and controlled vocals are reminiscent of something Brook Benton might have recorded back in the days of tiny transistor radios blasting soul into the night.

The disc ends with Benton’s dynamic “I’ll Take Care Of You,” with Payne’s strapping assertion, done on bended knee, to stand by his lady. Who could ever resist this personal hurt?

Payne and Edmonson, with the expert production of Delta Groove, and Chortkoff’s adherence to the traditions, have rediscovered exactly what we music fans know and honor in soul. This is one of the finest records released in 2006.


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