For her third album, Tryin' to Make a Little Love, Boston's Michelle Willson traveled to New Orleans, worked with producer Scott Billington, and embraced a variety of material. Her singing was still brassy, sassy, and full of attitude, and she could still handle the type of invigorating 1940s/early-'50s jump blues for which she was known. But this isn't an album that neatly fits into any one category. Though retailers placed Tryin' to Make a Little Love in the blues bins, this isn't strictly a blues outing. Willson brings her passion to the jump blues of Dolly Cooper's "Ay La Bas," the Latin jazz of "Corazon de Hielo," and the Southern-style soul of "I Would Rather Do Without It." Also, her emotion can be heard on "Shifting Sand" (a Willson original), "Life Rolls On" and "Responsibility" (a Dr. John/Doc Pomus composition). Before this album came out, the singers Willson was most often compared to included Dinah Washington, Ruth Brown, and Big Maybelle -- and they're still valid comparisons; this time, however, Etta James' name can be added to that list. While it doesn't hurt to name Willson's influences, it's important to point out that she's quite recognizable herself -- Tryin' to Make a Little Love is the work of a singer who shouldn't be pigeonholed.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson