Rhythm & Soul
Let’s set Gizzelle’s long-awaited new LP down right between Big Mama Thornton—marvel at the impossibly spot-on version of “Pretty Good Love,” with Alex Vargas gnashing out perfect “Ya swear?” back-ups—and Barbara Lynn, whose songs she ably adopts and whose devastating combination of defiance and heartbreak (“You’re Gonna Leave Me,” stand-out “I’m A Good Woman”) she completely inhabits. When she’s up, she’s angry, and when she’s down, she’s despairing, and although Gizzelle touches other kinds of songs, those are the ones that will stick with you most. Anybody who remembers her harrowing “Baby Please Don’t Go” from their list of Records I Should Have Bought When They First Came Out, Dammit knows how well Gizzelle does desolation, and how powerful it sounds with the Wild Records wrecking crew behind her. R&S is about split between R&B pounders—“Seven Day Fool,” “Scorched,” “The Place,” and other hard-won original 45s you may be lucky enough to own—and the real slow ones where the band pulls back into the corners and lets Gizzelle sing like hell. The spirit of Etta James is all over this, but this isn’t just an attempt to mimic a master; Gizzelle’s “I Would Rather Go Blind” is more an answering echo to Etta, alive because of its own particular tragedy and experience. If you told me this came out 40 years ago, I’d believe you—but just because this is a hurt for the ages.