Thursday, December 27, 2012

Keep the Fire Burning reviewed by Mark Thompson

Keep the Fire Burning
Barbara Carr
Catfood Records
11 tracks/40:29

Not too long ago, Barbara Carr was a star on the southern soul/blues circuit with ribald hit records that left nothing to the imagination including “Footprints on the Ceiling” and “Bone Me Like You Own Me” for Ecko Records. After years of toiling in relative obscurity, and despite a contract with Chess Records, it had to be gratifying to finally catch the attention of the listening public. But in recent years, her career has slowed with this project only her second in the last five years.

Perhaps the slowdown is due to Carr now being in her seventh decade of life. But you would never guess that as you listen to her latest release. Right from the start, her husky voice digs into “Hanging On By a Thread”, making a plea for the return of her lover over a muscular, percolating rhythm. “Back Together Again” celebrates yous strut. Carr testifies to standing resolute on “I Got the Blues”, relating how she came to understand what the blues is all about.

The co-producer of this project, Johnny Rawls, has had some hits of his own. He joins Carr for a riveting duet on “Hold on to What You Got” as both singers slowly build the intensity without losing control. Catfood owner Bob Trenchard also helped with the production. Rawls and/or Trenchard had a hand in writing all but one track.

Musical accompaniment is supplied by the Rays, who backed the dynamic singer Kay Kay Greenwade before she suffered a stroke that lead to her passing early this year. The Rays are now the house band for Catfood productions and often hit the road to back Rawls on his tours. Trench-ard is on bass with Johnny McGhee on guitar, Dan Ferguson on keyboards, Richy Puga on drums & congas, Andy Roman on sax, Mike Middleton on trumpet and Robert Claiborne on trombone. These road-tested veterans know how to infuse the proper amount of zest into each arrangement.

“Come on Home” finds Carr once again left alone and pleading for forgiveness for past sins. It is one of the songs that benefit from the presence of the Iveys – Arlen, Jessica and Jillian – on backing vocals. Carr supplies some idea of what might have caused the break-up on “Moment of Weakness”. The standout track is “We Have the Key”, as Carr delivers a moving performance that digs deep into the emotional well in praise of the man she loves. The title track finds Carr in familiar territory, vouching for what she expects her man to provide when it comes to lovemaking in a more subdued fashion than her earlier material.

A couple of songs - “You Give Me the Blues” and “What You Gonna Do” - are more generic and too similar to stronger material on the disc. On the closing number, “Sweet Talkin' Snake”, Carr refuses the advances of a no-good man with some fine accompaniment from Ferguson on piano and back-up singers Monica Guitierrez and Candice Reyes.

All in all, a very solid effort from Barbara Carr. It is nice to have her back and kudos to Rawls and Trenchard for making sure that she had a sympathetic band and a solid batch of material. The lady can still sing, so be sure you give this one a listen.

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

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