Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Betty Harris

The Lost Queen Of New Orleans Soul

There's A Break In The Road/12 Red Roses/Mean Man/I'm Gonna Git Ya/Ride Your Pony/Show It/I Don't Wanna Hear It/Bad Luck/Hook, Line 'n' Sinker/Lonely Hearts/What A Sad Feeling/What'd I Do Wrong/Trouble With My Lover/Sometime/I'm Evil Tonight/Nearer To You/All I Want Is You                                             

Betty Harris has been hailed latterly in soul circles as a “great lost soul queen”. She released a reasonable amount of material in the mid-late sixties/early seventies, produced by the legendary Allen Toussaint. She was sometimes backed by New Orleans funkers The Meters, such as on her most well-known song, the solid funky soul of There’s A Break In The Road. Most of the material is in the Laura Lee/Tommie Young/Ann Peebles brass-backed down ‘n’ dirty grinding soul vein. Harris had a fine, gospel-honed, strong voice.

Another fine song is the brassy and melodic, uplifting strains of Mean Man. I suspect, however, that this collection is a “needle drop” (the only source being the original vinyl), certainly on some tracks, like the crackly 12 Red Roses.


I’m Gonna Git Ya is a gritty slice of slow pace gospelly soul. Ride Your Pony is the Lee Dorsey Northern Soul floor filler and Harris’s version has an earthy appeal to it. 

What’d I Do Wrong is a brooding, horn-driven lament. Trouble With My Lover is an infectious, upbeat groover with a nice, rumbling bass line. It has a bit of a swampy vibe to it. 

Sometime is a soulful ballad as too is I’m Evil Tonight. The slow gospel blues of Nearer To You was actually a minor hit single.

There is a run of tracks in the middle of the compilation that suffer from dodgy sound, being a bit scratchy and tinny. They are probably slightly earlier recordings than the better material on the album. I Don’t Wanna Hear It is still a good track, however and Hook, Line & Sinker has a great vocal. Lonely Heart has a good bass bit at the end.

This is one of those collections that contains several good candidates for a classic soul rarities playlist.

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