When Otis Redding died, Mrs. Redding asked Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section guitarist Eddie Hinton to teach the Redding children to play the instrument. She might as well have asked the session man to teach the kids to sing: Hinton's voice came from the same gritty mold as his idols Redding and Wilson Pickett. The difference was that Hinton was white, and few have heard his brand of soul-shouting.
Though he had an unsuccessful solo recording career in the '70s, some will know Hinton's name as the co-writer of songs like "Breakfast in Bed" -- made famous by Dusty Springfield -- or as the studio guitarist and writer of many of the songs made in the late '60s and early '70s by artists who recorded at Fame Studios in Alabama -- from Pickett to Aretha Franklin. And though his solo work like 1978's Very, Extremely Dangerous was well-received critically, it never helped Hinton achieve success in his own right as a performer, which partially explains his personal decline.
John D. Wyker, a musician friend of Hinton's, found Hinton living on the streets of Decatur, Ala., with "his clothes in an old garbage bag and a small-handled suitcase." Wyker encouraged him to return to the studio. Hinton still had some leftover vocal and guitar tracks from his late-'70s sessions at Capricorn Studios in Macon, Ga. Additional recording in the early '90s resulted in Hard Luck Guy, a 13-song collection of previously unreleased material by the chameleonlike songwriter/guitarist/vocalist.
"Lovin' Chain" swings with the familiarity of a Redding or Pickett classic, though considering the time it was recorded, it's easy to understand why Hinton was a man out of time -- perfect '60s-era Atlantic Records soul was more than just outre then, it was completely over. "Three Hundred Pounds of Hongry" is a back-porch country blues; "I Got My Thang Together" is good ol' Southern rock; "Here I Am," with its doo-wop melody and brand of sexual bravado that helped make Al Green famous, is simply a plea for love.
Heavyweights like Spooner Oldham (keys), Dan Penn (vocals), Johnny Sandlin (drums), Donnie Fritts (Hammond B-3 organ), and many more cook up the rest of the sounds on the best piece of vintage Southern-fried soul to be made this decade. That is to say, it sounds fresh as hell and not like some warmed-over boogie stew. The set's heartbreaker is its title track. Like that weird note Redding goes for in "I've Been Lovin' You Too Long (To Stop Now)" Hinton hits one in "Hard Luck Guy." It's difficult not to be stung by the aching sound and the song's sentiment given the singer's fate: In the midst of finishing these tracks, Hinton was struck by a heart attack and died in 1995.
-- Denise Sullivan
She Haunts My Dreams
As work by associates of L.A. power brokers go, Spain's music is impressive in that it has any sort of pulse at all. Two-thirds of the group are bright young men with connections: singer and songwriter Josh Haden is the son of esteemed jazz bassist Charlie Haden -- and brother of Rachel and Petra Haden of the now-defunct That Dog -- while drummer Joey Waronker is altpop's favorite session man, having worked with the likes of Beck and Elliott Smith. And make no mistake, as Spain (with guitarist Merlo Podlewski), they're pros proffering a sophisticated, smoky version of folk-jazz, in keeping with their Blue Note-meets-4AD album cover design.
Recorded in the ABBA-built Polar Studios in Sweden, She Haunts My Dreams is a slight but charming collection of love songs, sweet in its simplicity if clinical in its execution. It's actually an improvement over the group's 1995 debut, The Blue Moods of Spain, on which Haden seemed to believe that breathing heavily into the mike and singing slowly and slightly off-key represented a soulfulness that proved that he was so ... in ... love. Haden's still a fan of the loping, half-speed waltz, but excepting the purple-tinted ooze of "Easy Lover," he's singing like he means it now, and rarely devolves into the easy kitsch of a hotel bar crooner. "Bad Woman Blues" has a charming, soft rise to it, gliding on the elegant accompaniment of guitars and organ, and "Nobody Has to Know," which actually has a kick to it, has a conspiratorial drama when Haden croons the title's words over and over.
Lyrically, Haden's lines aren't much -- he's pure moon-June-spoon -- which is precisely the way he wants it when he's making music that's meant to suggest instead of describe. Generally speaking, that means background ambience, but it also accurately captures the soul and pathos of late-night benders everywhere. Surely this is what record execs throw on in the wee hours when -- and if -- they listen to music. But it means something to other brokenhearted souls, too.
-- Mark Athitakis