Proper soul buffs know and appreciate the very real link between their beloved soul and American country music. Over the last couple of years Ace/Kent Records have illustrated that connection via a pair of fine compilations that featured soul stars giving their alls on country music classics. Now the same label turns the spotlight on one artist and her penchant for things country. The artist is soul diva Millie Jackson – chiefly known for her searing soul balladry and uptown swingers. But Ms J was a country girl at heart. She was born in rural Georgia and grew up listening to country sounds and almost every album she made had some country input somewhere. Indeed she cut a whole country LP – ‘Just A Li’l Bit Country’ and a good selection of cuts from that album form the core of this 17 tracker.
Amongst the tracks on this collection are a feisty version of Dolly Parton’s ‘Here You Go Again’ and a brave up-tempo work out of Don Gibson’s ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’. Mille chooses to totally ignore the way Ray Charles memorably made it over and I’m not quite sure if the chunky, funky arrangement works here.
Much better are the ballads –indeed Mille was always best on the searing slowies, wasn’t she? Here you can enjoy her on a lovely ‘Angel In Your Arms’, ‘If You’re Not Back In Love By Monday’ and ‘I Wish I Could Hurt That Way Again’… all soul tours de force. There’s also a pair of duets with Isaac Hayes – ‘You Needed Me’ and ‘You Never Cross My Mind’ – and on both cuts the duo really wring out maximum emotion. In short, that’s the link between the two genres. Soul and country are hugely emotional musics and Millie Jackson was/is one of the two genres’ finest exponents.