A Soul-Singing Legend, Reborn in 'Nashville'

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Soul singer Solomon Burke takes a long-awaited, and ultimately successful, stab at country music. hide caption

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Monday's Pick

  • Song: "Up to the Mountain"
  • Artist: Solomon Burke
  • CD: Nashville
  • Genre: Country-Blues

According to legend, Solomon Burke — Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, licensed mortician and long-reigning King of Rock and Soul — always wanted to be a country singer. With Nashville, Burke finally gets his shot: Recorded in producer Buddy Miller's house, the disc boasts as credibility-enhancing a cast of supporting characters as a reborn soul legend could want (Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Gillian Welch), not to mention a formidable collection of cover songs by the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Tom T. Hall.

Burke possesses an old oak of a voice that's perfect for the stripped-down, worn-out, mostly wondrous songs that populate Nashville; his innate thorniness nicely cuts through the warmth of these mostly benevolent tracks. "Up to the Mountain," written by Patti Griffin (who also provides unobtrusive backing vocals), is an ode to love as a barricade against weariness and old age. Set against the plaintive strum of guitars, organs and strings, it's a first-rate cross-pollination of country and blues, capturing both the grainy feel of an old spiritual and the hollowed-out resignation of a great country song.

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