Seems like everyone on Music Row wanted to record with Solomon Burke when the r’n’b legend arrived at Buddy Miller’s home/studio to record his 2006 CD Nashville.
The guest list featured singers like Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless and Gillian Welch and session pros including Jim Lauderdale, Al Perkins, Sam Bush and Mickey Raphael. I don’t know if Mr. Miller used a whole lot of studio wizardry on this recording but everything seems to have a fresh, exuberant, live-off-the-floor vibe.
And yet (for my money) the most striking track on the CD has no guest vocals at all. And why would you need any when you have Solomon Burke’s magnificently soulful voice lending weight and gravitas to Tom T. Hall’s “That’s How I Got to Memphis”.
The lyrics may be stark in their simplicity but with the instincts and skill of a master interpreter, Mr. Burke knew how to add depth and feeling where it counted, backed only by Buddy’s elegantly understated acoustic guitar and Byron House on stand-up bass.
The first two lines alone sound like there is a novel hidden in there somewhere, the way Mr. Burke phrases it.
“When you love somebody enough/You’ll follow wherever they go.
That’s how I got to Memphis (pause) That’s how I got to Memphis.”
(I swear Tom T. musta been reading Hemingway when he wrote this song.)
It’s intriguing to imagine similar arrangements on classic Solomon Burke singles like “Cry to Me”, “Down in the Valley” and “Just Out of Reach Of My Two Empty Arms” (a country/soul classic if there ever was one.)
Instead, “That’s How I Got to Memphis” will be the closest we will ever get to Solomon Burke- Unplugged. (Mr. Burke passed away at the age of 70 in 2010.)
Okay, I’ll admit it. I can imagine “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” with a chorus of his Nashville admirers.