Performing blues and R&B with bona-fide conviction requires more than chops, knowledge or even love of the world-renown American genres. No, it takes guts to get the glory, especially for a singer who must literally pull the music from his soul as opposed to his fingers. Veteran powerhouse vocalist Al Corte’ actually once suffered a hernia from belting with extraordinary exertion! Fortunately, such extreme measures were unnecessary to produce the thrilling, spirit-nourishing Seasoned Soul.
Producer Jerry Bone (guitar, bass, horn patches, harp, organ), his son Lennon (drums), Ron Miller (piano, strings), Charlie Chalmers on Sax and Sarah Jo Roark (background vocals) provide idiomatic backing on 10 killer classics. Little Milton Campbell’s “That’s What Love Will Make You Do,” a hot dose of cool funk, convincingly demonstrates Corte’s rich tenor. The immortal Freddie King shuffle “I’m Tore Down” displays Jerry Bone’s stinging blues licks as Corte’ makes the lyrics believable. “Oh, Pretty Woman” from Albert King explodes with energy, punchy dynamics, Bone squeezing sensual guitar licks and Corte’ exposing enough burning desire to melt any female’s heart. Likewise, Otis Rush’s minor key West Side of Chicago standard “All Your Love (I Miss Loving)” finds Corte’ pleading his love with unsurpassed passion while Bone picks inventive riffs. The dramatic “Unchain My Heart” features a stunning vocal performance which would impress Ray Charles as Charlie Chalmers adds resonant tenor sax. The barrel-chested Corte’ tackles the Otis Redding rarity “Any Ole Way,” exuding real Southern-fried R&B in an exuberant arrangement while sweetly growling. The insistently grooving “That’s the Way Love Is” from Bobby “Blue” Bland only further confirms Corte’s amazing ability to internalize lyrics.
The melancholy Delbert McClinton ballad “I Want to Love You” may be Corte’s most touching vocal performance as he caresses the lyrics and Bone offers tender guitar along with Chalmers tenor sax embellishment. McClinton’s “Leap of Faith” swings and shuffles lithely while Corte’ testifies with Roark adding her gorgeous, throaty gospel voice. Corte’ closes his magnificent R&B revue with a revolutionary, swinging version of James Brown’s landmark funk tune “Cold Sweat,” his dramatic exhortations worthy of the “Godfather of Soul” as Bone’s guitar “sings” with sustained lines.
Al Corte’ could go toe-to-toe with any blues, R&B or soul singer via his exceptionally interpretive, expressive and devastating skills. No retro imitator, he compels the music to exist as living, vital and essential national cultural treasure.
“Seasoned Soul was made without the use of technology to change or alter the pure raw talent,” says Corte’. “There are no overdubs, what you hear is very human and very real. All of the musicians that contributed to the album are masters of their craft who performed live in studio without embellishment. The making of Seasoned Soul was a labor of love and I am very grateful to the musicians that contributed on the making of something very special.”