Amy Winehouse Sings “Back To Black”

Amy Winehouse Back To Black singleListen to this track by tremendously gifted and seemingly cursed British R&B singer Amy Winehouse. It’s “Back To Black”, the title track to her 2007 sophomore album, Back To Black. The song comes off an album produced by Mark Ronson, who also co-wrote this tune with Winehouse, a tale of a lost relationship, and the mourning period that often follows.

This was the third single off of a record that made her name on the international stage, with “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good” being the other two. One of the reasons that these songs, and this record was a success was Winehouse’s voice which connected to a rich seam of R&B singing tradition laid down by Etta James, Erma Franklin, Betty Wright, and others. By the 2000s, these influences were new all over again. Yet, Winehouse was a new voice beyond her influences, with a seemingly effortless capacity for the blues and soulful phrasing all of her own.

But, I think another reason why this song works so well is because it establishes the persona of its author. Of course it would be this that would secure her place in the pop pantheon (not to mention the tabloids), and be her downfall, too. Read more

Amy Winehouse Interview

Amy WinehouseThis article from the Village Voice speaks to a big concern of mine having to do with Amy Winehouse. Well, two big concerns, actually. The first is that with all of the soap-operaesque press she’s received over the past few months, is her music likely to play second-fiddle to all of the drama surrounding her personal problems. And the second is, will Amy be an Etta James, or a Janis Joplin?

I personally think that she is one of the most interesting, talented vocalists working today. But, she’s a drug addict and alcoholic too, and the chance of her being swallowed by her own demons looks pretty likely. But, people in her position have made it through before.

There’s been plenty of voyeurism surrounding this extremely talented singer, and motives for writing about her vary, I suppose. Some of these motives are about the cash to be made in circulation, in that a public train wreck always sells papers. For me, I just want to keep hearing new music from her. And something inside me wants her to be OK, which right now she’s clearly not with drug problems and a husband in jail. I think this concern is where the attached article comes from too.

Read the article and make up your own mind on this. And tell me what you think, people.

Image credit: Pazz & Jop

Daptone Records – Classic Soul-Funk in a Digital Age

Daptone Records LogoIn reading an article about the rise and fall (and rise again!), of Stax records I came across another article about a (relatively) new label who loosely model themselves on the original Stax label – Daptone records.

The label started with the idea that musicians could make music they think is cool, record it, and put it out on their own. A radical idea indeed! The group of musicians have their hand in a number of projects, most notably Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, who some might consider to be a revivalist take on classic southern soul traditions. But, as it is pointed out in the article in the January issue of MOJO magazine, these guys have backed Amy Winehouse – both on record and live.

Amy Winehouse, despite her recent tabloid adventures, has a smash album on her hands with Back to Black (a recommended release as well, people, if you’ve not heard it). So, they’re not a stab at hitting the nostalgia market – millions of people are loving the sounds they’re making right now from middle-aged rockists like me, to teenage girls singing in the front rows in venues across the globe.

I find the very existence of this collective of musicians, producers, and studio/label owners very encouraging. It helps that their approach takes its lead from the basics – live music, real instruments, with artistic control taken pretty literally. In making the comparison to Stax, let’s hope they continue to exemplify the strengths of that label – great music, family environment, lots of hits, and a lasting legacy. And let’s hope too that they avoid the pitfalls!

Check out their roster of musicians, and the new record from Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, 100 Days, 100 Nights.

Watch and hear Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

To view the clip, hover over the image and click the ‘play’ icon. To enlarge the viewing window, click the magnifying glass icon in the top right corner.

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings 100 Days 100 Nights