In the sleeve notes to this album, legendary guitar man, Steve Cropper explains how this recording came about. Briefly, it all goes back to his youth when he and his Memphis buddy, Duck Dunn inveigled their way into a concert by top R&B vocal group, The 5 Royales. As a young player himself, Steve was transfixed by the band’s guitar player – Lowman Pauling. Pauling had, what was then, a unique style. Wearing his instrument slung low on an extended strap, he’d play the cool rhythms almost on the neck before cradling it up to work on his solos. Before long, Cropper was using the same techniques in the studios of Memphis… working out seemingly simple rhythm patterns that perfectly complemented the song and – when required – injecting stinging fills and solos.
Fast forward to last year, when Cropper cut an album with Felix Cavaliere of the (Young) Rascals. The set was produced by his Memphis neighbour, Jon Tiven and when the two were thinking of new project, Steve revealed his passion and respect for Pauling – so ‘Dedicated’ was born… a full-on tribute to the 5 Royales, or, more specifically, their guitar man, Lowman Pauling.
The album’s title comes from the 5 Royales’ biggest hit, ‘Dedicated To The One I Love’ (later recorded by the Shirelles and the Mamas and the Papas) and here Cropper covers the song with due reverence allowing vocalists Lucinda Williams and the stalwart Dan Penn to offer their own embellishments. Like ‘Dedicated To The One I Love’, all the songs are taken from the Royales’ repertoire and each one features a number of guests. The LP’s guest list includes Steve Winwood, Betty LaVette, BB King, Delbert McClinton, Sharon Jones, Buddy Miller and Queen’s Brian May – who like Cropper reveals a love for Pauling’s style. Cropper shines throughout –still using that same rhythm/fill style that makes him such a musical giant. Hear it to best effect on the version of ‘Think’. The song is possibly, best known in either of two James Brown recordings, but here it’s stripped right down to basics and the studio band (which includes David Hood, Spooner Oldham and Steve Ferrone) clearly enjoyed the exercise. Indeed there’s joy throughout the whole album with “real” musicians relishing working on a project close to their hearts.