Leela James: Loving You More…In the Spirit of Etta James

Posted October 31, 2012 by in



5/ 5


Genre: Soul, R&B
Producer: Shannon Sanders, Drew Ramsey, Leela James
Label: Shanachie
Format: CD, digital download
Time: 37:40
Release Date: 2 August 2012
Spin This: Something's Got a Hold of Me, Old School Kind of Love, It Hurts Me So Much, I'm Loving You More Each Day


Plenty to pick from, James offers brilliant reinventions from the Etta James songbook


The love jones of "Sunday Kind of Love" overstays its visit

James on James: A soulful “At Last” tribute disc for the iPod generation

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

James on James: A soulful “At Last” tribute disc for the iPod generation

At the age of 29, Leela James – with only three solo albums to date – has proven to critics and fans alike that she’s in a league of her own due to her feisty Tina meets-Chaka pipes. Think of her as the female version of Anthony Hamilton. But there’s a growing trend now starting to envelop around the young old-school singer. Despite baking an impressive, but unbalanced debut A Change Is Gonna Come, her best work seems to land on tribute discs. 2009’s Let’s Do It Again proved to be a tour de force of Stax, Philly and primal rock n’ soul. Once she ventured to the reborn Stax label, the original work returned on My Soul, which hardly complimented her mountain-moving instrument. Back at it again, Loving You More…In the Spirit of Etta James reacquaints her with the staff at the indie-operated Shanachie label and cleverly pushes James to cover the powerful Etta James, who passed away early this year. Unlike most cover albums, James avoids the commonplace expectations of doing what is equal to the original. Instead she proves to be a studious musician in the world of 21st century r&b reinvention. Rather than reduplicating Etta’s classics like Etta, she twists the arrangements using a dab of neosoul makeup and urban whip appeal.

Coming out the gate, “Something’s Got a Hold of Me,” the infectious album opener, turns up the tempo on the original’s gospel beat, giving it a Pentecostal drive while packing on effective drum-programmed beats, whirly beats and dreamy backup singers. “It Hurts Me So Much” and “I’d Rather Go Blind” sounds like Lauryn Hill throwbacks. “I’m Loving You More Each Day” plays like a burning sequel to R. Kelly ‘Step in the Name of Love,” while “Nobody Loves You Like Me” and the original composition “Old School Kind of Love” plays with iconic Al Green riffs. She even finds some kind of way to twist “Damn Your Eyes” into a sexy Prince-esque workout using “When Doves Cry” drums, while also avoiding any slight comparison with Alex Clare’s haunting remake.

The only major greivance aboard Loving You More falls upon the prelude-sounding “Sunday Kind of Love,” which turns the volume up on the steamy coos and overstays its welcome. But by the time she whips out the album’s closer, the eternal “At Last,” she reaffirms her place in this world. On top of its doo-wop arpeggios, her gutsy soul wows us as if she came directly out of the clouds of soul heaven. If only she could find new material that matches the sovereignty ofthese Etta tunes, James could easily become the Aretha of our generation.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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