The '90s and early- to mid-'00s saw the arrival of some impressive female soul singers, including Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu, Mary J. Blige, Lauryn Hill, India Arie, Syleena Johnson, and Jill Scott. But those artists are not soul singers in the old-school sense; they are neo-soul/urban contemporary vocalists with a strong hip-hop influence. In order to hear artists who still specialize in soul music in the classic '60s and '70s sense, listeners need to look elsewhere -- and one place to look is the blues circuit, which is where you will find Monica Parker, (aka Sista Monica). The big-voiced Midwesterner isn't strictly an R&B singer, although R&B is certainly a major part of what she does. Parker, like many people on the blues circuit, has one foot in electric Chicago blues and the other in '60s and '70s style R&B -- and she does both things equally well on Can't Keep a Good Woman Down. Her approach is best described as Koko Taylor by way of Etta James (as opposed to Etta Jones), Aretha Franklin and Mavis Staples; if someone asks whether Parker is a blues singer or an R&B singer, the answer should be "both" (and she has gospel credentials as well). Parker gives 100 percent on this 2005 release whether she is performing urban blues on "Surrender to Love" and "Show Me What You're Working With," or embracing '60s and '70s-style soul on the sassy "Lip Service," Sam Cooke's gospel-drenched "A Change Is Gonna Come," and Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away." The latter, it should be noted, started out as a country-pop ballad but has, on more than one occasion, found its way to the R&B world, and the expressive Parker reminds us how well Nelson's gem can work outside a country-pop setting. No one will accuse Parker of being innovative or groundbreaking, but when it comes to passion, warmth, and excitement, blues and soul lovers can't go wrong with this hour-long CD.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson