RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

Mahalia Barnes & the Soul Mates Featuring Joe Bonamassa - The Betty Davis Songbook
J&R Adventures

Rating: A

Holy sh*t this lady can sing! Not only is she freaking awesome she is joined on this sucker by a six-string aficionado that ain't half bad either, Joe Bonamassa. If you want proof by this and skip to track 7 and listen to “Nasty Gal.”  Oh baby this is rock and roll soul created in the depths of heaven itself!  “Hey-hey” has never been sung as sexy! 

The music is a homage to Betty Davis.  Not the one with eyes but rather the one who was married to Miles Davis.  That Betty shared something in common with Ms. Barnes, she, too, could belt out a tune.  Miles wife released three albums in the mid 1970s and then a 'lost' album recorded in 1976 was released in 2009.  Barnes puts down 12 Davis tunes down on this album with the goal of raising awareness about the talent of this long lost vocalist.

“I have been a fan of Betty Davis for years now,” said Mahalia. “I can remember the first time I heard her stuff, I was hooked! She is wild, free, nasty, raw, funky, intense, powerful and sexy. I love the instrumentation, I love the backing vocals. I've always wanted to make a record that sounds like what she was doing.”

She teamed up with her band, The Soul Mates, and enlisted famed producer Kevin Shirley to handle the sounds in the studio and the rest is history.  They recorded the album live over three days at Freight Train Studios in Australia.  With Shirley onboard knowing how would handle the guitar duties was easy.  Enter Joey B, AKA Joe Bonamassa, the hardest working six-slinger in the game these days.  Music oozes out of his fingertips.  Teaming up with Barnes was a no-brainer.  The result is a mix of classic soul and funk with a touch of blues and rock and roll added for good measure. 

Mahalia did what she set out to do.  Not only is Betty paid the respect she has long deserved, she is recreated with pure emotion and passion.  This is ooey-gooey, stanky-funky, free sailing, down and dirty barroom music that just makes one go, "Ohhhhhhh yeahhhhhhh baby...do it again!" 

There is not a bad song or even a bad note; on the contrary, this is 12 tracks of sheer delight. 

Bonamassa fills his role as supportive guitar god with ease.  It is nice to see/hear him not taking things for granted and stretching out.  That is not meant as a cut down, it is just that music comes effortlessly to this man.  It’s wonderful to see him striving for perfection and working his fingers to the bone. 

Check out the video below to hear what I've been trying to describe.  Mahalia is one nasty gal in the oh-so perfect sort of way!

1. If I'm In Luck I Might Get Picked Up
2. Steppin In Her I Miller Shoes
3. In The Meantime
4. He Was A Big Freak
5. Your Mama Wants You Back
6. Game Is My Middle Name
7. Nasty Gal
8. Ooh Yeah
9. You Won't See Me In The Morning
10. Anti Love Song
11. Walking Up The Road
12. Shoo-B-Doop And Cop Him

By Jeb Wright