http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/5d1a474c3fc0a1d6c87451509b69fd5607f8b604.jpg Matriarch Of The Blues

Etta James

Matriarch Of The Blues

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 3.5 0
February 1, 2001

After detours into jazz, pop and country, Etta James is back in the smoking eye of an R&B maelstrom, singing with controlled fury and vinegary bite. Surrounding this queen bee of the blues are two fresh princes: sons Donto and Sametto, who produced and engineered, and played drums and bass, respectively. The young bloods balance classic and contemporary approaches, leaving Mama free to breathe fire into an intriguing mix of tunes. An adroit interpreter, James invests Bob Dylan's cranky "Gotta Serve Somebody" with the air of Old Testament-style authority it demands, while the Rolling Stones' bubbly disco-era hit "Miss You" gets slowed down to a sensual simmer that highlights the heartbreak at its core. The album really finds its rhythm in James' takes on such R&B nuggets as O.V. Wright's salty "Don't Let My Baby Ride," Ray Charles' lowdown "Come Back Baby" and Otis Redding's playful "Hawg for Ya." The singer is given ample space to state her piece, with many songs running in the five-to-seven-minute range. A solid return to roots, Matriarch of the Blues finds Etta James reclaiming her throne — and defying anyone to knock her off it.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Bird on a Wire”

    Leonard Cohen | 1969

    While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

    More Song Stories entries »