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A Soul Sleeper Returns, Bluesy Worldliness Intact

Spanky Wilson is enjoying a low-key career renaissance.
Spanky Wilson is enjoying a low-key career renaissance.

In the spirit of Sam Moore, Solomon Burke and Candi Staton's recent career renaissance, Spanky Wilson resurfaces with a funky song that echoes her sentiments about life as an soul singer. Although Wilson has performed with luminaries such as Marvin Gaye, Duke Ellington and Sammy Davis Jr., she doesn't spark the name recognition that Staton or Burke do. That may well play to her advantage, because she's not pressured to release a purely market-driven comeback disc full of listless duets. By pairing with British electronica soul producer Will Holland (a.k.a. Quantic), Wilson retains her underground credentials, preferring the raw over the refined.

On "I'm Thankful," Holland treats Wilson's weathered alto to a fractured bass and drum groove, punctuated by stabbing horn riffs and rockabilly guitar accompaniment. At once, it recalls Sly & The Family Stone and Chuck Berry. Wilson deftly balances the playful melody with a bluesy worldliness as she invokes musicians trudging on the chitlin circuit. While she never seems to harbor any allusions of making it big, she makes the experience gratifying and glamorous.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

John Murph
John Murph writes about music and culture and works as a web producer for BETJazz.com. He also contributes regularly to The Washington Post Express, JazzTimes, Down Beat, and JazzWise magazines.