Compared to some of his fellow R&B giants, Solomon Burke doesn't bring depth of feeling to his music so much as an extraordinary ability to sell a song — remember, this is the same guy who used to sell bologna sandwiches to his bandmates on long bus rides. Wherever it comes from, his music is electrifying, one part testament, one part lament. Since his 2001 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he's released three albums that stand among his best, even though his voice isn't as supple as it once was. On Nashville, Burke returns to his early musical days: His first pop hit, back in 1961, was a country ballad, "Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms)." Burke is joined here by a top-notch band; the highlight is "Ain't Got You," an extra-boastful Bruce Springsteen cover featuring E Street bassist Garry Tallent (who didn't even play on the original!). Luminaries such as Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch and Dolly Parton also make appearances — but it's always clear who's sitting on the throne.
- Solomon Burke
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