Amy Black has always been drawn to soul singers. But it wasn’t until she began exploring her own southern soul roots for her last album, The Muscle Shoals Sessions, that she found her musical sweet spot — and knew her next stop had to be the place where blues and soul converge (and where she herself was conceived); where Al Green, Otis Redding and so many others turned grit and groove into some of the world’s most beloved tunes. Black then hunted down several top musical architects to help her lay down the sound she was meant to make — the sound of Memphis. Released June 2, 2017 on her own Reuben Records, Memphis puts Black — already considered “a bluesy, R&B heavy hitter” by Elmore magazine — on the same continuum as soul sisters from Dusty Springfield, Ann Peebles and Mavis Staples to Bonnie Raitt and Shelby Lynne.
The album was produced and engineered by Scott Bomar, the Grammy-nominated, Emmy-winning producer and leader of the Bo-Keys. His band includes Hi Records rhythm section drummer Howard Grimes, who joins fellow Hi greats the Rev. Charles Hodges (piano and Hammond B3) and his brother, Leroy “Flick” Hodges (bass), along with Stax guitarist Bobby Manuel on many of these tracks. Together with the Bo-Key’s Joe Restivo on guitar and horn and string arrangements by Marc Franklin (the Bo-Keys and Gregg Allman Band), the album’s seven originals and three well-chosen covers (by Otis Clay, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Ruby Johnson), nail the passion that flows through this town like the mighty Mississippi.
Infusing her vocals with Saturday-night sultriness and Sunday-morning gospel, slow-dance sexiness and fast-dance exuberance, Black goes from silky smooth to raw and rough with equal ease. Her organic sound was recorded old-school analog style at Bomar’s Electraphonic Recording studio and mixed to tape by Adam Hill at Ardent Studios. The result is pure and authentic —and she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I love the music of Memphis; everything that came out of here in the ‘50s, the ‘60s, the ‘70s … I love the grit and the guts and the soul and the groove,” Black says. “And the heart of it all is the blues.” Black says she hopes Memphis inspires listeners to dig into this music as she has, and to explore “the history, the people, the stories” of this fabled place. With her live Memphis Music Revue, she’s ready to carry that music far and wide. But no matter how you experience her music, when Amy Black takes you to Memphis, it’s a journey you won’t forget.