Martha High and Speedometer ‘Soul Overdue’ (Freestyle) 4/5

Formerly a singer in James Brown’s crack 1970’s formation and a lead singer in her own right, recording a Brown produced album for Salsoul, Martha High has all the right credentials to record a classic soul album with funk-tinged grooves and this is exactly what she conjurs up here, with an authentic 1960s feel provided instrumentally by the excellent extended band Speedometer. The selection of songs veers towards classic covers with a few originals composed by guitarist Leigh Gracie. One of the best numbers is the delightful take on ‘Sunny’ which commences as a laid back jazzy trio version with double bass, but then suddenly veers off in an altogether different direction and in fact morphs into a Latin jazz version with a Jimmy Smith inspired hammond organ solo. Almost as good is the James Brown penned ‘No more heartaches’ which is an uplifting slice of 1960s soul which is heavy on brass and rhythm guitar. Gritty soul is the order of the day on the reprise of the Don Covay classic ‘You got it’ while soul-blues territory is entered on ‘I’d rather go blind’ which Etta James famously made her own. While High does not possess the same vocal range as James, this is nonetheless a fine alternative with understated vocals that impress. Martha High possesses a warm, gentle voice that immediately endears the heart and soul, and crucially she does not over adlib which makes for a refreshing change. The seldom covered ‘Trouble Man’ from the epic Marvin Gaye film soundtrack receives a faithful rendition complete with subtle electirc piano and vibes. Of the new songs, ‘No more worries’ with its heavy bassline and rhythmic guitar riffs fits in well with the rest. Overall a fine album that showcases one of soul’s unrecognised artists. This album will go a long way to putting that lack of exposure to right.

Tim Stenhouse