One of our favourite interviews in 2022 was with sensational British rhythm and blues singer Emma Wilson. Emma releases her new album, “Memphis Calling,” on November 10th. Emma Wilson’s incredible vocal talent and songwriting were brought to the attention of an international audience with the release of her debut album “Wish Her Well” and her winning the title of “Emerging Blues Artist of the Year” at the ‘UK Blues Awards’ 2022. Of course, emerging is something of a misnomer for an artist who has a decade of hard work behind her, but it was well deserved all the same.
In January 2023, Emma travelled to Memphis to visit her distribution company ‘Select-O-Hits’ and meet with company owner Johnny Phillips, who was excited to share that the ‘Sam Phillips Recording Studios’ owned by Sam’s son Jerry Phillips had recently acquired the original STAX console, and she should get over there and make a new album!
“This was an opportunity I couldn’t miss, so in June ’23 I returned to Memphis. Producer Scott Bomar brought in legendary Memphian musicians who are so soulful and drenched in rhythm and blues. I want to represent a modern English woman, deeply influenced by the music of Memphis, bringing her own Britishness and making an album with a unique contemporary sound, and I believe we have achieved this.”
And to review the album, on to this fine mix of original songwriting and classics from the Blues catalogue:
“A Small Word” (EMMA WILSON/GARY BURR)
A lively opener full of zest from an up-and-coming princess of the blues. Seriously, if you want to know how to deliver the blues in 2023, then this is how. Emma takes us into the album with the confidence that comes with a great singing voice.
“Water” (STEVE CROPPER/EDDIE FLOYD)
This one moves us into a bit more of an American sound; for sure, I hear Memphis on this one. It slots well into the album and the chorus grooves. This is a very radio-friendly number, and Emma can sure hit those high notes!
“Watching You Leave” (EMMA WILSON/GARY BURR)
This one has a great uplifting feel; I don’t entirely know why, but it made me think of Dusty Springfield. The instrumental support is terrific on this track (as it is throughout, to be fair). There is a real range of instruments on the album, and it makes for a chocolate box listening experience.
“I Still Love You” (WILLIE MITCHELL)
A Willie Mitchell number and the most soulful on the album. It is given a dreamy treatment by Emma. It is a decent album track.
“What Kind Of Love” (SCOTT BOMAR/DON BRYANT)
But I like this better than the last track! This one has a great groove, with a bit of boogie creeping up unexpectedly. Emma delivers a sweetly rocking number, with some solid backing vocals helping the song to swing.
“I’ll See You In The Morning” (EMMA WILSON/TERRY REID)
My favourite on the album. Beautiful sounds, both vocally and musically. It has a dreamy sentimentality and a wonderful build-up of chords and melodies, and it is built for commercial smooth radio. I liked it a lot!
“Drug” (EMMA WILSON/SCOTT BOMAR)
I loved the jazz feel within this one; it grooves along with confidence, and the blend of orchestration makes the connection with the old-time southern sound. It is highly probable that this one will be a success, and Emma is probably eager to present it to her audience live.
“Hoochi Coochie Mama” (WILLIE DIXON)
Muddy Waters was the first to record this well-known blues song, and Motorhead once covered it too (Lemmy always claimed that Motorhead was a blues band)! Emma is in her comfort zone here and having a blast with the classic. It’s not Motorhead, but it certainly remains true to the blues roots of the track, and it delivers a great vibe that shivers down the spine.
“Since I Fell For You” (BUDDY JOHNSON)
Oh yes! Seductive, sexy and demonstrating some jazz vocals in a blues-style song What a great closer! Slowly circle the dance floor while holding on to your partner; the previous couple is still present, and the night’s music will transport you away.
Standout Tracks: “I’ll See You in the Morning,” “Since I Fell for You,” and “Watching You Leave.”
And my one-sentence summary of the album: This is blues for 2023, delivered in style by one of the best voices out there.
LEAD VOCAL : EMMA WILSON
GUEST VOCALS ON “WHAT KIND OF LOVE” : DON BRYANT
ORGAN : CHARLES HODGES
BASS: LEROY HODGES
DRUMS : STEVE POTTS
ELECTRIC PIANO / ACOUSTIC PIANO / WURLITZER : ARCHIE “HUBBIE” TURNER
GUITARS: JOE RESTIVO
TENOR & BARITONE SAXOPHONES: KIRK SMOTHERS
TRUMPET: MARC FRANKLIN
TAMBOURINE: SCOTT BOMAR HORN ARRANGEMENTS : MARC FRANKLIN except ‘A SMALL WORD’ : HORN ARRANGEMENT : EMMA WILSON & MARC FRANKLIN
By Stevie Ritson
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