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Tracy Nelson
Move On,  Rounder CD 3134 , 1996 (45:56)

Backup singer fantasy camp

What we have here is a full-bodied, full-throated album. Tracy Nelson is not shy about stepping right up to the mike and showing us all her power and then some. This is no slender novella–this is  War and Peace belted out with Chicago blues credentials that go back at least thirty years. She rocks, she’s soulful, she’s funky, she’s gospel. This woman sings with such power and soul that she can afford to share the stage with a whole lot of big-hearted instruments as well. There are horns (The Memphis Horns), there are organs (Al Kooper, Jimmy Pugh), there’s a whole lot of sly, nasty, piano work by Reese Wynans and there are back up singers that resurrected my fantasy of being a wha-wha girl when I grow up. Her backups, Vickie Carrico, Darryl Jones, Alice Newman, and Rebecca Russell, as far as I’m concerned join the esteemed ranks of Van Morrison’s and Leonard Cohen’s. No small praise.

Tracy Nelson has been cutting records for 30 years now. She came of age with the blues, moved around in rock, R&B, soul and country. She’s been around the block. And that maturity and perspective is exactly what makes this recording work so well. This is a grown-up woman’s album - she’s still funky, still blues, still rock, still wails, still a whole lot of fun - but she knows she knows her stuff and shows the power that only years and failures along with the successes can prove to you. It sounds sacrilegious to say, but on her version of Bessie Smith’s "Got me Going" as well as "Drowning in Memories" by Gary Nicholson and Chick Rains, I hear Phil Spector’s open-voiced girl groups, all grown up. The texture is richer, the piano more sexy, the voices a couple of decades deeper (and the steel drum bridge that we hear in "Drowning..." was I’m sure never done by the Ronettes!) Having acknowledged that everyone has reached the age of responsible and more moderate behavior, these two songs still are screaming to be sung way too loud in a red convertible with the top down cruising the Coast Highway on an August night with a bunch of girlfriends. (Excuse me, "women friends.") Later, on "Ladies Man," Nelson is joined by Phoebe Snow, Bonnie Raitt, and Maria Muldaur. The four of them are smooth, supportive sisters, weaving their wonderful harmonies around each other, as each woman takes her turn in the spotlight, one at a time stepping forward to the front to share her magic and show off her skill. The beauty of this album is that Tracy’s range flows so naturally from the ’70s funk of "Move On" to the wide-open gospel of her "Playing it Safe" with its multiple rhythm changes and layered vocals and further to the strutting syncopation of "(I Was) Good to You Baby."

What more can I say? I like her power. I like her rhythm. I like her changes. I like her instrumentation. And I really really really really  really would like to be a backup singer for her!–  Kate Boris Brown

Copyright © 1997 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.