Blues Bytes


June 2009

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Dalton Reed
Louisiana Soul Man
Bulleye Blues

Dalton Reed

Back in the early ’90s, I picked up Dalton Reed’s Louisiana Soul Man sort of as an afterthought. I was not familiar with him at all, but I had always had pretty good luck with most of my purchases from Rounder Records’ Bullseye Blues catalog, so I thought I would give it a try. It was one of the best impulse decisions I’ve ever made.

Reed, from Lafayette, LA, was like many soul singers in that he came from a religious background, singing in his church choir (and still serving as music minister at his church when Louisiana Soul Man was released). After graduating from high school, he worked in several local R&B bands as a singer and playing trombone, trumpet, or piano. One of his bands, Dalton Reed and the Musical Journey Band, even backed up Rockin’ Sidney for a few months during Sidney’s “Don’t Mess With My Toot Toot” days.

Despite the Zydeco connection, Reed’s first love was soul and R&B, and singers like Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Teddy Pendergrass, and Luther Vandross. In the late ’80s, he released a couple of 45’s that did well locally. Rounder Records producer Scott Billington happened to hear these 45’s on the juke box at El Sid O’s Zydeco Club in Lafayette, and on the recommendations of many of the area musicians, Reed was given an audition and an opportunity to record.

Louisiana Soul Man features ten tracks of Southern soul, mostly new material contributed by familiar names in the genre. The opening tune, “Read Me My Rights,” was written by Johnny Neel and Delbert McClinton. It’s been done by several other artists, like Ann Peebles and McClinton himself, but their versions don’t hold a candle to Reed’s. His version is still one of my all-time favorite Southern soul tracks. Dan Penn also contributes a couple of tunes, including the amusing “Blues of the Month Club,” and the memorable “Full Moon” is the work of Doc Pomus and Dr. John.

Reed also co-wrote several tracks, including the exuberant “Keep On Loving Me” (with Zeno and Billington), “Keep The Spirit” (with Samuel), and the deliciously funky “Party On The Farm” (with Zeno). “I’m Only Guilty of Loving You,” from Dave Williams and Mick Parker, is another highlight with a heartfelt vocal from Reed. If Reed’s influences weren’t clear at the beginning, the closing track should seal the deal. His reading of Otis Redding’s “Chained And Bound” is outstanding.

Billington assembled a crack band of South Louisiana musicians, including Buckwheat Zydeco bassist Lee Allen Zeno (who also helped produce the album), guitarist Mark “Boudin” Simor (formerly of Johnny Allen, Warren Storm, and Terrence Simien), keyboardist Gordon Wiltz of the Boogie Kings, and drummer David Peters (formerly of Louisiana LeRoux), along with a terrific horn section of Bill “Foots” Samuel (saxophones), Terry Townson (trumpet), and Chris Belleau (trombone).

Louisiana Soul Man was well-received upon its release, and Reed was able to tour throughout America in support of it. 1994 saw the release of his second disc, Willing & Able, which was as strong an effort as his debut. Unfortunately, while touring in Minnesota, Reed succumbed at age 42 from a heart attack just six months after Willing & Able was released. There are many stories in the music world about artists struck down in their prime or just as they were about to reach their prime, but this was a particularly sad loss because good as his two releases were, many thought that Reed’s best work was still ahead of him. Given the excellence of Louisiana Soul Man, that surely would have been something to behold.

--- Graham Clarke


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