The torch has been passed like a joyous beacon leading to the rewards of deep soul. “Mississippi Blues Diva” J.J. Thames possesses stunning looks and a gorgeous voice as a magnificent instrument to extol spiritual and earthly desires. Schooled in classical music, jazz and the blues, she delivers music life affirming as a heartbeat.
On Tell You What I Know, one cover and10 heart-stirring originals by Thames and others are rocked by David Hyde (bass), Vince Barranco (drums), Sam Brady (producer, keyboards) and Celeb Armstrong (guitar) with guests Grady Champion (executive producer, harmonica), guitarists Eddie Cotton, Doug Frank and Danny Scallions, Richard Beverly (trumpet), Todd Bobo (tenor sax) and Mike Weidick (trombone).
“Souled Out” is staggering creation, referencing gospel music and chants back to Africa. Over a solitary tolling drum Thames beseeches “Oh, Lord, hear my cry, gonna tell this story before I die,” lamenting “I said I’m souled out, souled out…” The sensual country blues “Hey You” finds Thames spinning raw poetry like “Standin’ there, mouth hangin’, aw sugar, are you amazed. You see my daddy, pimp turned preacher, I was born to play this game. There’s no need for pick up lines, I know ‘em all anyway. I’m a lady, respect me baby, you’re well on your way.” The funk of “I Got What You Want” has her negotiating her needs with “I need a strong man that can rock me all night long (2x). If you’re that man, honey, I might be willing to take you home… I got what you want, if you got what I need.”The silky, bluesy ballad “My Kinda Man” features Thames appreciating her plain man: “May not be the finest thing alive, but he’s everything I’ve ever dreamed. A good country boy, loves his mama, takes good care of me…He may not smoke what you smoke, but when we make love, my baby ain’t no joke, cuz he’s my man.” On the dark “No Turning Back,” she pleads “…What’s a girl like me gotta do to be free and get on the right track. I’m a’get over you, I’m a’get past blue. Lord know it’s true, yeah it’s a fact. There’s no turning back.” The Memphis soul ballad “Can You Let Somebody Else Be Strong” spotlights her emotionally soothing chops with “You’ve always been the hard one that comes through in the long run…But, everybody now and then needs a little help…Ain’t a sign of weakness.”
Defiant on the funky “I’Ma Make It,” Thames sasses with “The man I got now, treat me so good, love me, oh, like a real man should. He kiss me better than you, his mojo better, too…” Fearlessly, she grabs the dramatic heavy blues of Ray Charles’ “I Believe to My Soul” and makes it her own, alternately purring and growling “Last night, you were sleeping, overheard you say, ‘Oh sweetheart,’ when you know my name is J.J.” The pulsing Memphis R&B of “Just Enough” has Thames regretful: “Found me somebody else, started gettin’ it on. Thought I was over you, baby, oh I was so wrong, so wrong. Cuz last night you laid your love on me so strong. You gave me just enough to keep me holdin’ on (3x)” inflamed by a searing Danny Scallions solo.
In “Rhinestones” Thames convincingly uses metaphors like “How am I gonna look good when I feel this cheap. If I’m only second best, who’s gonna want me. How am I supposed to smile when all I feel is tears. Am I foolin’ anybody or am I the fool in here…those are questions for rhinestones, they always know how to shine like diamonds and glitter like gold.” The wistful autobiographical title track closes with Thames’ unshakable conviction: “Moved down to Mississippi, took a’hold of my roots. Hopped a bus to Motown, got me some of those factory worker, blue collar blues, yes I did. Over to New York City, in the subways singin’ my song. Y’all might think I’m only worth quarters now, but I know, I know it won’t be long.”
A blazing talent like J.J. Thames comes around as rarely as a comet. Combined with her passion, street smarts and lust for life, the result is a rising star of the first magnitude.