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| 22 July 2016 | Reply

3 June, 2016
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Jimmy Barnes - Soul Searchin'

For his fourth album of soul cuts, Jimmy Barnes filmed a TV special in America’s South, digging deep for lost soul gems – tracks which he says, “that for one reason or another were skipped over or they were too hard for radio or the singer was cross-eyed – for whatever reason, these songs were missed.”

It’s fair to say that some of Barnes’s earliest soul efforts struggled to apply his whisky-gravel-rock-screech to the smooth musical style – the first of these albums, Soul Deep, did come out a quarter of a century ago – but his voice has matured considerably since then.

It’ll never be as honeyed as Al Green or as rich as Solomon Burke, of course, but Barnes now has a deeper, richer, fuller well to draw from, and Soul Searchin’ sees him singing in arguably the best form of his career.

The songwriters are mostly far from household names, but some of the tracks are more well known: Rodger Collins’ She’s Looking Good – also covered by both Wilson Pickett and David Lee Roth; a raw and pleading take on Bert Berns’ Cry To Me – made famous by Solomon Burke and also popularised by The Rolling Stones, The Pretty Things & others; a fantastic run at Gene Barge & Lee Webber’s 1969 scorching hit for Laura Lee & Duane Allman, It’s How You Make It Good, and many more.

A bonus disc features some more well known gems – Mustang Sally, In The Midnight Hour and Elvis’ Suspicious Minds amongst them, and a few special guests pop up here and there – the legendary Steve Cropper plays a wonderful guitar solo on the Etta James hit I Worship The Ground You Walk On; The Memphis Boys band back Jimmy on a handful on tracks; the mighty Dan Penn harmonises on his own Dark End Of The Street; and modern legend Joe Bonamassa rips it up on In A Broken Dream.

All the performances are exemplary and none more so than producer Kevin Shirley, the go-to-guy for the likes of Iron Maiden, Journey, Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart, etc. Shirley’s strengths lie not only in the aural quality, but in the feel of the piece, and under his guidance Soul Searchin’ never sounds stale, over-rehearsed, schmaltzy or toned down: there’s just the right balance of organic feel, and note-perfect playing.

Category: CD Reviews

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