Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dorothy Moore Blues Heart Album Review


This CD review was originally published in the November 23, 2012 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Dorothy Moore – Blues Heart

Self released through Farish Street Records

10 tracks / 42:34

Whenever I get a new CD from a legend of the music industry, before my first listen I always wonder if it will live up to the artist’s previous catalog of work. Maybe it is the pessimistic way of looking at things, but a lot of times it does not work out well – look no further than last year’s Bob Dylan Christmas album. Well, this time Dorothy Moore made things easy on me and I do not have to be such a sourpuss, because Blues Heart, her latest CD, is very good.

Dorothy Moore has quite a musical career since signing with Epic Records and hitting the Billboard Hot 100 in the mid 1960s. She has been in and out of the industry with various record companies, and has recorded in the pop, soul, blues, gospel, and disco genres. As of late she has been recording secular music on Farish Street Records, her own label. It seems she has found her niche with the blues; she has worked with music from solid writers and put out a very nice recording.

Blues Heart is not just a clever name, as this is a smooth blues and soul album. Dorothy laid down the vocals in Nashville, Tennessee and Jackson, Mississippi with the help of Vince Barranco on drums, David Hungate on bass, Clayton Ivey on keyboards and organ, Steve Johnson on guitar, Jim Horn on flute and Harrison Calloway with the synthesizer horns and strings. Oh yes, and Dorothy has taken up the harmonica, so we get to hear a bit of her new talent on this album.

There is no doubt that this is a blues album when the first song is a about a lady whose man steals away with another woman; he even takes all of her money without leaving a note. I guess that would be a few good reasons to be “Coming Down With the Blues.” Dorothy’s voice is soulfully mature and pure honey, and Steve Johnson shows off his guitar skills by expertly playing off of her. You will also hear some heavy synthesizer work on this which carries through much of the album. Electronic music might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it works well in this context.

It would not be fair if I did not talk a little about Ms. Moore’s harmonica skills, which she has been working on for the past three years. We hear her harp on the second track, “Let the Healing Begin,” which is a slow blues jam with honky-tonk piano and a fat bass part. It was wise to pick a slow jam for her first recoded harmonica solo, and she did an admirable job on the “Mississippi sax,” as she calls it. This song’s old-school blues vibe contrasts nicely with the next track, “Make Up.” This funky tune is full of phased guitars and hearty organs and synths, and recounts the joys of reconciling after a disagreement – in a sexy way.

“My Time on Earth” is a poignant ballad that grows into a hopeful anthem of love for our fellow man. Dorothy goes into full-on soul mode for this song, which any of us could only hope to have for our epitaph. This sense of hope fades as “When the Hurt Comes Down” comes up next. This is a classic uptempo break-up song, with some very pretty background vocals to contrast with her plaintive wails of sorrow. We also get a dose of Jim Horn’s breathy flute, filling up the song the rest of the way with soul.

There are yet more songs of distrust and betrayal, but there is a fun twist on “Nosey Neighbors,” as she sings about how she is spying on the single lady across the street who is spying on her old man. “And if you work out in the yard, now here she comes, washing on her car.” She does indeed have a nosey neighbor, and her neighbor has a nosey neighbor too!

The closing track for the CD is definitely off the beaten path. Though not as controversial as it was when it came out in 1968, the story and message of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” is unchanged and is still appropriate for today’s audience. This tune is a bit more of a bare-bones production, and Ivey does some nice organ work to fill in the gaps. This final song remind us of how strong Moore’s voice still is, having held up so well over the last 40+ years of studio work.

Dorothy Moore did an admirable job of putting together Blues Heart, and if you are looking for a laid-back blues vibe you will get a kick out of it. I hope she is working on a follow-up, because her experience is so valuable to the blues community, and I think she has a lot more to say to us.


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