Millie Jackson

Loving Arms: The Soul Country Collection

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Ace's 2014 compilation Loving Arms: The Soul Country Collection explores a usually uncelebrated aspect of Millie Jackson's career: her habit for recording country songs. She did this often throughout the '70s and early '80s, starting in 1973 when she cut the minor Bobby Goldsboro hit "Summer (The First Time)," then ending after Just a Li'l Bit Country, a 1981 LP that wound up as the culmination of her country inclinations. The Soul Country Collection picks album tracks recorded between 1977 and 1981, adding two unreleased alternate versions from this time along with a brand-new recording of Millie changing Tyler Farr's 2013 hit "Redneck Crazy" into "Black Bitch Crazy." This new selection is the only time where Jackson truly indulges in her earthy humor; otherwise, this music is played relatively straight: Millie picks a country song and then sings it in her signature Southern style. While this occasionally dips into disco -- delightfully, one of the two oldest, purest country songs here, Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You" and Charlie Walker's "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down," is given a bawdy glitter-ball arrangement -- it nevertheless sounds like this era as it balances slow Southern soul grooves with bits of soft rock and other sumptuous satin sounds from the pre-MTV era. This means The Soul Country Collection captures one of the deepest Southern soul singers not so much stretching herself but letting country come to her. Jackson is an immovable force of nature, so much so that when she does record something that sounds like country, it's designed as a novelty touting her greatness (that'd be "Anybody That Don't Like Millie Jackson"), so what is remarkable about this set is how it doesn't highlight her country roots -- which are there, because she's a child of the south -- but how she can make everything, such as Merle Haggard's "If You're Not Back in Love by Monday," which she turns into exquisite late-night heartbreak, into something that sounds like it sprung fully formed from her own soul.

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