Eddie Hinton

Very Blue Highway

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The late Eddie Hinton never got his due by mass culture standards, though soul music lovers everywhere are deeply indebted to him. Over the course of only six recordings, Hinton defined the ethos of the Southern white soul singer. Many who heard his records on jukeboxes in bars and bowling alleys and never saw his photograph were shocked to discover he was, in fact, not African-American. The most important point, however, is that Hinton was a natural; he never had to cultivate his sound -- he owned it from the very beginning. His second-from-last album, recorded for the Rounder subsidiary Bullseye Blues, evidences a solid, even acrobatic performance from Hinton and a band that includes bassist Owen Brown and organ hero Ron Levy. Thankfully, Hinton handled all the guitar chores himself; his round, fat, funky textures adorn his razored yet sweet vocals like a blanket. Standout tracks are the deep, horn-inflected "I Love Someone," with its Stax/Volt groove and rough and ready production. "Poor Ol' Me" moves with a punch-drunk blues vibe that collects the horn section around Hinton and pushes him deeply into the song's stop-and-start melody. But nothing matches the intensity of the swamp soul of the last three tracks: "Standin' In," "Hey Justine," and the literally stunning "Nobody But You." On all three, Hinton's voice is unadorned by production; it's almost shot from years of tobacco and whiskey and yet, even at half power, he has more raw courage, more inspiring emotion to bring it on home to the listener full-bore. He carries the band on these songs, driving them deep into the tune's rhythms and harmonies with a feral grace and unstoppable spirit that will echo hopefully for decades to come, even though the singer is gone. This is bad-assed soul music from the heart, without regard for niceties or trends. A classic.

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