Various Artists

Southern Funkin': Louisiana Soul 1967-1979

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None of these 22 Louisiana funk/soul obscurities (none of which postdate 1975) were on big labels. And almost none of the performers have any name recognition value among general listeners, with the possible exception of "Count" Rockin' Sidney (better known as the zydeco artist of "My Toot Toot" fame) and Katie Webster. That doesn't mean that such material isn't of possible interest, of course. But the questions that arise are: is it good, and does it have a distinct regional identity? Those are hard to answer with authority. This soul-bleeding-into-funk crossover is solid, but nothing to make the Meters sweat, being more derivative of national trends (particularly James Brown) than innovative of their own paths; some passing traces of Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Jean Knight (of "Mr. Big Stuff" fame), and other major soulsters of the time can also be whiffed from time to time. There's some Louisiana flavor to some of the vocal drawl and idiosyncratically loping rhythms, but the material is only average, and the Cajun influence is rather less than you might expect from reading the quite thoroughly researched liner notes. Plus, while the liner notes make pains to note this was culled from outside of the city of New Orleans (which had its own strong soul-funk scene going on), some of it does sound a little like local artists you might have seen enlisted as warm-up acts for the Meters. It's primarily for listeners who listen to funk as a main part of their diet, though there are some above-average cuts with less slick production than many of their big city counterparts. Take a listen, for example, to Dennis Landry's "Miss Hard to Get," with its hustling beat and wah-wah guitars, or Leroy Soileau's "Wish You Were Here," which sounds a little like a swamp pop Bill Withers (though the track here unfortunately suffers from some varispeed, slowing down briefly as though the battery's running down).

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