The moment I heard Jonathan Knight open up I knew the Rhythm Express had to record something with the fine guitarist and singer. Jonathan leads a blues-based band – Soulstack. Knight is currently nominated in the “Male Vocalist of the Year,” category for the 2015 Maples Blues Awards.
Knight and I discussed a list of possibilities and arrived at Bert Bern’s classic – “Cry to Me” – originally sung by Solomon Burke in 1961 and later covered by the Rolling Stones. “Cry to Me” is one of those songs that floats about on the peripheral. You hear it in films, television shows, occasionally; informal settings and you have to sing-a-long.
Bern’s was a white New Yorker with Julliard training and big love for writing and producing black music. “Cry to Me” works on so many levels. Its gospel and its soul music, its blues and rhythm & blues. That explains how pliant the song can be in the right setting.
Solomon Burke wasn’t sold on working with Berns having dedicated himself to furthering his career in the soul/gospel market. When Berns first sang Burke the song, Burke rejected as being to slow and void of meaning. It was studio engineer Tom Dowd who found common ground with Burke and sped the tempo up. That session featured an all-star line-up of jazz and rhythm & blues greats: Leon Cohen on Alto Sax, Jesse Powell on Tenor sax, Hank Jones on Piano, Robert Mosely on Organ, Don Arnone, Al Caiola, Bucky Pizzarelli and Everett Barksdale on Guitars: Art Davis on Bass, and Gary Chester on Drums.
Berns would also offer Burke a sure hit, ‘Hang on Sloopy” which he out and out rejected.
The night we sat down to record in Everton Paul’s Side Door Records was also the first time sidemen engineer and guitarist Shane ‘Shaky J’ Forrest, bassist Jesse ‘Dubmatix’ King, Everton ‘Pablo’ Paul had met Knight. It took only short moments for the groove to jell. All the players have a deep love and profound respect for the studio – those traditions rooted in Muscle Shoals, Studio One – Kingston, Jamaica, Soulsville down in Memphis, Sun Recording Studios – those legendary studios where the groove, a great song, a great voice and appropriate parts make solid music with a serious life pulse.
The Rhythm Express first single of 2016 is produced and arranged/keyboards by Bill King. Knight; lead vocal and guitar. Back-up vocals; from Ammoye Evans, Anna Paul and Maiko Watson. Horns – Christopher Butcher trombone and Bobby Hsu alto saxophone.
released January 4, 2016
Executive Producer/drums: Everton 'Pablo' Paul
Producer/Arranger/keyboards Bill King
Engineer/guitar: Shane 'Shaky' J Forrest
Lead vocal/guitar: Jonathan Knight
Cover design/bass: Jesse 'Dubmatix' King
Background vocals: Maiko Watson/Ammoye Evans/Anna Paul
Trombone: Christopher Butcher
Alto Sax: Bobby Hsu
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