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June 2021

Tia Carroll
You Gotta Have It
Little Village Foundation

Tia Carroll

The name Tia Carroll was a new one to me when I received a download of her new album, You Gotta Have It (Little Village Foundation). My first assumption was that she was a Chicago singer, after which I found out that she is actually from the Bay Area of California. I also noticed a different sound than your standard blues recording, thanks to the fact that it was recorded at the Greaseland Studios, which is producing many of the best albums of the last several years. Not surprising that Ms. Carroll has released one of the best albums of the year so far.

We get some of the usual Greaseland all-stars backing her in the sessions  leading to 11 high-quality numbers, straddling the blues / soul fence quite aptly. Greaseland head genius Kid Andersen plays guitar, and keyboard wizard Jim Pugh is also on board. If you've been paying attention to other recent hit albums, those names pop up quite regularly in the liner notes. Long-time San Francisco deejay Noel Hayes was the mastermind behind the project and is credited as the executive producer. Lots of star power here, folks.

The opening cut, "Ain't Nobody Worryin'," is one of the top songs, lots of contemporary flavor packed into this catchy soul/blues with references to what's happening in our world today. Charlie Hunter is the guest guitarist on this opening number and he plays the heck out of his instrument. Carroll slows down the tempo for the soulful "Even When I'm Not Alone," telling us with plenty of power and just a touch of rasp in her vocals as to what she's looking for in a lover.

"Our Last Time" is the killer cut of the album, with Andersen laying down incredible Magic Sam guitar licks while Carroll shows range and power on her vocals as she sings about the end of a relationship. If there was such a thing as a Blues Guitar Hall of Fame, I'd nominate Andersen for his licks on this number. Wow! The tempo picks up on "Don't Put Your Hands On Me," with a wall of horns coming in behind Carroll's sassy vocals. The mood and tempo does a total 180 on the slow, jazzy soul ballad, "Never Let Me Go," with Pugh's piano playing the highlight here while Carroll's voice soars through the octaves.

Everything gets funky on the slow number, "Leaving Again," a Carroll original with sparser instrumentation as our star tells us how she's getting out of the relationship, singing, "...your loving was delightful, too bad you give it to somebody else, I thought you had it for me, but now I'm sitting here all by myself..." Andersen again steps to the front with more Magic Sam-style guitar on the blues number, "Mama Told Me," while Pugh contributes tasty Chicago blues piano. We also get plenty of raw emotion from Carroll as she sings that her mother was right in telling her to stay away from that man.

"Ready To Love Again" is an up-tempo stomper with Carroll singing about how she's getting back into the game, asking the conductor to let her back on the love train. The energy here comes in part from the big sound of the horn section and intermittent sax solos from Sax Gordon Beadle. The tempo slows again on Z.Z Hill's soul ballad,  "I Need Someone," with a real ol' timey gospel sound augmented by Pugh's organ playing. The guitar intro gives "Move On" kind of a Mississippi hill country sound reminiscent of R.L. Burnside before the horns blast away and the band, with guest guitarist Igor Prado, lays down a funky beat.

Wrapping up this exquisite album is a slower Staples Singers blues, "Why Am I Treated So Bad," with Carroll's voice dripping with pain and regret, helped by soulful background vocals from The Sons of Soul Revivers and Andersen adding plenty of effects on his guitar solo.

The You Gotta Have It title of this album sums up my recommendation perfectly. You gotta have this one in your collection now. Hooray for Tia Carroll, Noel Hayes, Kid Andersen, and everyone else that put together this collection of great songs. One of the year's best.

--- Bill Mitchell



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