I Believe to My Soul
[Featuring Ann Peebles, Billy Preston, Mavis Staples, Irma Thomas, and Allen Toussaint]
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2005, Volume 12, #10
Written by John Metzger
Even while his work as a singer and songwriter has veered from the Bob Dylan-influenced folk-rock of Talk of Heaven to the country leanings of Kindness of the World to the jazz-tinged ambience of Tiny Voices, Joe Henry has developed a splendid secondary career as a producer. Beginning with the superb Donít Give Up on Me, which, in 2002, marked Solomon Burkeís return to the limelight, Henry has taken it upon himself to revitalize the legacies of classic soul artists. This year, he turned his attention to Bettye LeVette, who in September issued Iíve Got My Own Hell to Raise, and his most recent project is I Believe to My Soul, which, named after a classic track by Ray Charles, effectively serves to reestablish the credentials of Mavis Staples, Allen Toussaint, Billy Preston, Ann Peebles, and Irma Thomas. Assembling a house band that was anchored by Toussaint, Henry and his all-star cast spent a week in the studio reconfiguring old chestnuts and writing new material, which resulted in a wonderfully cohesive album that sounds fresh, vibrant, and alive. Peebles shines on a magnificent reinterpretation of Dylanís Tonight Iíll Be Staying Here with You; Preston rejoices in the sweet seduction of Both Ways; Thomas finds the perfect balance between strength and vulnerability in her epic rendition of Tom Jansí Loving Arms; Toussaint submerses himself within the murky waters of River Boat and thrives within the grooving instrumental Turvalon; and Staples not only fills You Must Have that True Religion and Keep on Pushing with a gospel fervor, but she also duets with Preston on the joyous exaltation of Thatís Enough. Indeed, Henry avoided smothering the material on I Believe to My Soul in arrangements that were overly glitzy, and he opted instead to support his singers with music that was understated and subtle. Likewise, the vocal acrobatics that mar much of todayís R&B-flavored offerings are thankfully non-existent, and what remains is a potent and powerful suite of songs that are warm, intimate, emotionally charged, and timeless.
Of Further Interest...
I Believe to My Soul is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box