Joe Simon

The Chokin' Kind [Sound Stage 7]

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There's something about Joe Simon's rich, burnished voice that sounds as smooth as a glass of 12-year-old bourbon, and feels just as appropriate on a sad and lonely day. In some respects, Joe Simon could be called the Roy Orbison of soul music -- there's a naturally sorrowful tone in Simon's voice that shines clearly through even the most upbeat material, and both singers had obviously learned more than a little from the sounds of classic country. The Chokin' Kind, the first of three albums Joe Simon would crank out in 1969, features three tunes written by the great C&W tunesmith Harlan Howard, and all three (especially the title cut) serve as superb examples of the clear if little-examined kinship between soul and country, inspiring truly stellar performances from Simon. Much of the rest of the album is padded out with covers, and while one might imagine it would take a brave man to cover Otis Redding, Glen Campbell, and the Five Satins on the same LP, Simon brings his own style and personality to each song, no matter how familiar they may be in other contexts. Like many soul long-players of the 1960s, The Chokin' Kind is more a collection of songs that a unified work, but the consistent strength of Simon's performances makes it fine listen from start to finish.

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