Reuben Wilson and Dakota Staton

Reuben Wilson

Blue Mode

Blue Note/Rare Groove

Dakota Staton

I Want a Country Man

Beast Retro/Simitar

ONE OF THE decidedly minor figures in the fabled Blue Note Records pantheon, funky organist Reuben Wilson nevertheless cut some percolating urban-jungle Hammond B-3 blasts that remain timelessly tough. Wilson was playing "acid jazz" more than two decades before the term was even coined. Check Blue Mode's monstrous groove-a-thon opener--a piece of gritty and relentless magic called "Bambu." It's intense and electrifying, funky as dog doo when the snow melts, everything one expects from an organ combo in full flower.

Blue Mode also includes sweaty remakes of Eddie Floyd's Stax/Volt bomb "Knock On Wood" and Edwin Starr's "25 Miles," plus a hip mid-tempo cakewalk called "Bus Ride" that sounds like Medeski, Martin & Wood with a wailing Texas tenor on the top. Wilson drags the beat like a ball and chain on "Bus Ride," but you'll be doing the boogaloo to his "Orange Peel."

Still charming audiences in the Pacific Northwest, bluesy chanteuse Dakota Staton is best remembered for her hit 1957 Capitol album, The Late, Late Show. I Want a Country Man is a lost salvo from her large and largely out-of-print catalog. It comes from the files of Sonny Lester's checkered Groove Merchant label, and is now being reissued by the hip local folks at Simitar Entertainment, KTEL grads with discriminating tastes who run a new label called Beast Retro.

Like the late Dinah Washington, Staton has the ability to sound down-home and dignified, regal and rowdy all at once. And she's in fine form throughout I Want a Country Man, which features a "Cry Me a River" that would make Julie London run for cover. Staton also offers up a terrific reading of Al Kooper's Blood, Sweat & Tears classic "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" (recently revived by Kevin Mahogany). The horn chart is pure '70s pizazz, the rambunctious drummer is great (though he goes uncredited), and when Ms. Staton interjects the line, "I could be the president of Afro Sheen, baby!" it's an aside worthy of Sinatra.

The grande-dame goes on to deliver the drama of a Broadway leading lady and the lung power of a gospel choir star on the riveting "How Did He Look?" And she sounds like Charles Brown's twin sister throughout an intimate take on "It's the Talk of the Town." Sonny Lester produced a lot of jive records in his '60s and '70s prime (in fact, several of his Sonny Lester & His Orchestra tracks resurface on Rhino Records' new sex kitsch fest, Take It Off!: Strip Tease Classics). But the Manny Albam-arranged I Want a Country Man is one of Lester's infrequent cases of great taste. And it's swell to hear again, now in digital splendor. Regular KBEM-FM radio listeners, plus Debbie Duncan's legion of local fans, will definitely want to check this out.

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