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Melissa Etheridge
Melissa Etheridge

Melissa Etheridge dips into Stax catalog for new album

By SCOTT CUNNINGHAM // Memphis Rock and Soul stays true to roots

Melissa Etheridge has built a career out of soulful, blues-inspired music that cuts deep to the heart. In her latest release, "Memphis Rock and Soul", she eliminates the middle-man and goes straight to the source of her inspiration: the legendary Stax recordings and artists.

"Memphis Rock and Soul" is no ordinary cover album, though. Working with the same material, many artists would have strayed far from the originals, wishing to put their own interpretative stamp on the material.

Much to her credit, Etheridge resists such heretical temptations.

By doing so, she came up with an album that is so faithful to the originals that at times it seems as though the material was written for her. And what material Etheridge had to work with. The song credits are a veritable who's who of Stax and include William Bell, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Luther Ingram, and Booker T. Jones.

The strongest cut is the Sam and Dave standard Hold On, I'm Coming, written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter. Horns, guitar, keys, and drums meld together to give the song the driving feel of the original. If anything, Etheridge's vocals give the song a stronger sense of urgency and longing than the Sam and Dave version.

Other tracks that stand out are Wait a Minute, Who's Making Love, I Forgot to Be Your Lover, and Respect Yourself (one of two tracks where Etheridge penned an added verse).

Fans of Etheridge are sure to love the album. But, there's more appeal here than just to her fan base.

Unlike its Motown neighbor to the north, Stax produced few female artists, certainly none with the name recognition that came out of Detroit. In recording these songs, Etheridge demonstrates that there is indeed a place for women in southern soul, which is enjoying a revival of late. Here's to hoping other women hop onto the Memphis Train as well.


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