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FAME Review: Shakura S'Aida - Brown Sugar
Shakura S'Aida - Brown Sugar

Brown Sugar

Shakura S'Aida

RUF Records - 1165

Available from RUF Records.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Whoa, whoa, WHOA!!! Yeah, Shakura S'Aida is a powerful fiery blues burndown on one side and then the other but who on God's green Earth is this woman, Donna Grantis, playing guitar?! Godammit, but she has muscle where a lot of male blue fretbenders don't even possess bone! S'Aida and Grantis make up a forceful slippin-in-thru-the-backdoor duo that's going to have mouths wagging, lips gasping, and tongues ululating.

Brown Sugar is a strong release in an Etta James vein—lotsa stomp, shout, sass, earth, and plenty of torchy balladry—but S'Aida also possesses a Randy Crawford tang, a little down on the ground Gladys (those who haven't heard Ms. Knight do up the blues don't know what the hell they're missing), and a whole lot of her own straight-up mode. Lance Anderson throws in a ton of no-nonsense organ groove, lighting up the dark corners and tinting that small little touch of sing-your-heart-out Sunday Go to Meeting church atmosphere…an A.M.E. chapel in the heart of South Central, of course, not the uptight Tabernacle Of The Doe-Eyed Lamb over in Pacific Palisades.

S'Aida backs up from nothing and grooves out her lines and soul-deep emotions with ten shades of heart spiced first in ribald seduction and then wistful, moon-eyed, lovelorn regret, later laying down the law and washing her hands of all the good-for-nothing guys that came her way. More than once, I also heard echoes of Street Life, the great Crusaders / Crawford hit. Shakura can trip on down from a wail to a purr in a moment and hang you sideways on both. Grattis then jumps to the planks and peals out raw intense asides atop foundation chord work, blazing with a sinewy grit that'll sting the eyes and scratch the skin, laying back ears fore and aft. Man, what a pair! There are a lot of really great blues sides emerging right now, but this is one that ya gotta glom onto because there's nothing else quite like it. These two invest so much in each other that, especially in the closer, Outskirts of Memphis, they practically leap into one another's skin.

Track List:

  • Mr. Right
  • Walk Out That Door
  • Gonna Tell My Baby
  • (Did It) Break Your Heart
  • Angels on High
  • Chasing the Sun
  • Missing the Good and the Bad
  • Sweet Spot
  • Brown Sugar
  • This is not a Love Song
  • Anti Love Song
  • Outskirts of Memphis
All songs by Grantis / S'Aida except Sweet Spot
(Sloski / McTaggert / Hazzard) and Anti Love Song (B. Davis).

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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