Lady J Huston — “Groove Me Baby” — Earwig Music / Unison Productions
Joyce Huston, or Lady J as she is known in the blues world, has been around the music world for a while.
She got her first taste of musical fame as a teenager, singing with Johnnie Johnson, Chuck Berry’s original pianist. And it didn’t hurt that her mother was Loyce (Pickens) Huston, a noted blues and jazz singer in St. Louis.
Then her musical training (including her trumpet playing skills) got her a spot as lead trumpeter touring with Albert King’s band in 1981. She was just 18. It wasn’t too long before she was King’s lead trumpeter, then his musical director.
That’s not a bad way to start your career.
After all that, “Groove Me Baby” is her first full-length studio album. And so this debut session begs the question: What took her so long?
The album overflows with the power of nine original songs (and three outstanding covers), written or co-written by Huston, backed by a lineup of razor-sharp musicians.
Here’s an excellent article by Bob Baugh on STLBlues.net that elaborates nicely on Lady J’s multifaceted career.
The session opener is the original “Your Call,” a tough old-school blues kicked into gear by a horn section that’s done to a crisp. The fierceness of Huston’s commanding vocals set the tone for everything that follows.
“Mean Stud Lover’s Blues” is another terrific, hard-charging blues with a message, and the message ain’t carpentry; On “I Want A Man Like That,” Huston reprises a big and bold jazzy blues sung by her mother in 1963 with the Chick Finney combo; “Tearing Me Apart” is a gorgeous smooth and soulful ballad.
That’s followed by Huston’s R&B-flavored version of the Albert King classic, “Born Under a Bad Sign;” her ode to the Covid pandemic is the sly uptempo “Corona, You Make Me Sick!;” On “Hide-Away,” Huston adds a strong vocal turn with the Jazz Edge Orchestra, who recorded the track with her in 2019 for a St. Louis Blues Society compilation.
“Groove Me Baby” is sophisticated soul; “Messin’ ‘Round On Da Bayou,” is laced with a funky New Orleans beat driven by Huston’s Las Vegas drummer, Jimmy Prima, nephew of the legendary Louis Prima; he hot swing number “500 Pounds Good Gizzay,” is an almost not-so-double entendre that updates a raucous little ditty from her mother’s repertoire.
Two bonus tracks close it all out: an instrumental take on “Mean Stud Lover’s Blues” so you sing along, and a stirring live version of “At Last,” the Etta James’ classic.
This is, simply put, an outstanding album in every respect. The musicians dramatically underline Huston’s commanding presence and keep her fierce vocals front and center while she storms through the set. Even the slower numbers are steamy enough to fog your soul.
It took long enough for Lady J to cook up this special musical feast; I’m ready for a second helping.
Official video of “Groove Me Baby”:
01. Your Call
02. Mean Stud Lover’s Blues
03. I Want a Man Like That
04. Tearing Me Apart
05. Born Under a Bad Sign
06. Corona You Make Me Sick!
08. Groove Me Baby
09. Messin’ Around on Da Bayou
10. 500 Pounds Good Gizzay
11. Mean Stud Lover’s Blues
12. At Last (Live)
Thank you Mr. White for this kind & excellent review of my album! I so appreciate you sourcing the other material you researched & giving credit to the wonderful team of musicians. Betsie Brown shared this with me & I’m so grateful for having someone of her caliber overseeing the radio PR.
Keep up all the great work you’re doing in keeping the Blues alive!