Roadhouse Album Review: Vaneese Thomas soars in gorgeous album, “Fight the Good Fight”

Vaneese Thomas — Fight the Good Fight” — Blue Heart Records (April 15)

There are powerful singers with great voices in the world of music — and then there is the majestic voice of Vaneese Thomas.

The written word is often inadequate to describe the emotional qualities of music, and this exuberant album filled with powerful music and gorgeous vocals is one of those times. (But I have to try, otherwise this post would end here!)

It’s tough enough to find just one of those qualities in a musical performance, but Thomas and a stellar group of musicians wrap it up and bring it all home with power and passion on this outstanding album, her ninth.

The powerful arrangements on every song weave an undulating tapestry of pulsating sound that urge Thomas’s rich vocals both higher and deeper. Maybe it helps that she wrote or co-wrote all 12 songs, which can only add to the heightened sense of emotional purpose in each one. I should note here, in case you didn’t realize, Thomas is the daughter of the legendary Memphis singer, songwriter, dancer, disc jockey Rufus Thomas.

The songs themselves? They’re a heady mix of blues, R&B, soul, country and other classic roots music. To her credit, Thomas makes each one sound as though it’s her first musical language.

In order to create this great sound, Thomas enlisted many special guests, including Scott Sharrard (Gregg Allman’s musical director), Bo Mitchell, Lisa Fischer, Tash Neal, along with the Memphis Horns – trumpeter Marc Franklin and saxophonist Kirk Smothers (Drive By Truckers) – and harmonica from Corrin Huddleston, plus banjo by Peter Calo. Bassist Will Lee, drummer Shawn Pelton and more worked on special sessions in Brooklyn, Nevada, and the Royal Studios in Memphis.

Warnecke and guitarist Al Orlo hold down the rhythm section for most of the songs, beginning with the potent opener, “Raise The Alarm,” which does just that for the excellent music that follows.

Next, Thomas’s soaring vocals highlight “Same Blood Same Bone” (a video is below), an emotional ode to the soulful heritage of her hometown, Memphis. After that, Calo’s banjo adds a country flair to “Rosalie,” and that’s followed by the driving “I’m Moving On,” ridden hard and put away wet with Thomas on piano.

There’s not a bad note here, or a lyric out of place. Every song is worth a listen — many listens, in fact. The sheer lyricism is word-perfect. 

A few of my other favorites include the hopeful anthem of the title track, with plaintive fiddle by Katie Jacoby and finger-pickin’ good guitar by Paul Guzzone; “Bad Man” is a tough but victorious blues message. The spiritual-like closer, “Lost in the Wilderness,” is simply beautiful, with that gorgeous Thomas voice soaring in front of a choir that adds even more power and passion.

Like I said at the beginning, words can’t really do justice to this level of musical excellence. You’ve got to hear it, absorb it and make Vaneese Thomas’s soulful performance part of your own musical experience.

 

Here’s “Same Blood Same Bone”:

Tracklist:

  1. Raise the Alarm
  2. Same Blood Same Bone
  3. Rosalee
  4. I’m Movin’ On
  5. Time to Go Home
  6. When I’ve Had a Few
  7. Bad Man
  8. Blue
  9. ‘Til I See You Again
  10. He’s a Winner
  11. Fight the Good Fight
  12. Lost in the Wilderness

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