Irma Thomas – After The Rain – Craft Recordings

by | Oct 21, 2020 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Irma Thomas – After The Rain – Rounder Records (2006)/Craft Recordings CR00280 (2020) 180-gram stereo double vinyl, 49:17 *****:

(Irma Thomas – lead vocals; Dirk Powell – guitar, banjo, fiddle; Sonny Landreth – slide guitar; David Torkanowsky – electric piano, Hammond B3 organ, piano; James Singleton – bass, double bass; Stanton Moore – drums, percussion; Juanita Brooks – backup vocals; Marc Broussard – backup vocals; “Chucky C” Elam III – backing vocals; David Egan – piano)

Despite a lack of success like r & b contemporaries Etta James and Aretha Franklin, Irma Thomas was an impactful artist. Known as “The Soul Queen Of New Orleans”, her roots trace back to singing in gospel choirs. An authentic hardscrabble life shaped her musical vision.  Thomas recorded the single “Don’t Mess With My Man” in 1959. It was the first of many charting r & b sides. Her career took a minor uptick when she worked with fellow New Orleans legend, Allen Touissant. “It’s Raining”, “Ruler Of My Heart”, “Breakaway” and  “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)” entered the pop charts modestly. A “B” side, “Time Is On My Side” resulted in a hit…not for Thomas, but for The Rolling Stones. Thomas had a stint at Chess Records with limited commercial success. Eventually, she returned to Louisiana, and was signed to Rounder Records. There, she recorded several albums that earned critical praise, but failed to crossover. Among the catalog were two Grammy nominees, Live! Simply The Best (1991) and Sing It (1998). Finally in 2006, Irma Thomas was awarded a Grammy for After The Rain. In 2007, she was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame, and remains an icon in New Orleans.

Craft Recordings has released a 180-gram double vinyl of After The Rain. This is a well-produced, eclectic group of songs that reflect the range and depth of this great singer. Side A opens with a slow, groove-infused ode to romantic despair (“In The Middle Of It All”). Thomas’ deliberate vocal style and sultry alto embrace the song with soulful aesthetics. David Torkanowsky’s electric piano is subtle and evocative. Sonny Landreth contributes a nimble slide guitar. In what feels like country and gospel. “Flowers” is pure Louisiana swampy funk. Thomas (with crisp backup vocalists) recounts a weary tale of life. It is moving and displays emotional depth. In a change of pace, the doo-wop ditty, “I Count The Tears” (written By Doc Pomus) is polished (vocals, great bass) and accessible. The …”Na, na, na, late at night” refrain is catchy. In perhaps an allusion to Hurricane Katrina, “Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor” is a slowed-down gritty rumination with stellar acoustic guitar from Dirk Powell. Thomas’ gorgeous vocal delivery is stunning. With verve, Thomas “testifies” on the Sunday morning gospel up tempo number, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”. Staying with the church musical vibe, she takes on a more secular defiant message on “If You Knew How Much”. The blues has always distilled an acute sense of personal loss, especially in love. “Another Man Is Gone” is a “down ’n’ dirty” lament that intermingles heartbreak and Katrina imagery (“…the water’s at the door”). Thomas channels the slow-burning intensity with her sorrowful inflection. Landreth frames the hypnotic groove with jagged slide riffs.

Irma Thomas - After The Rain 2 LPSide C is introduced with a classic soul number “Till I Can’t Take It Anymore” (Clyde Otis). It is an anthem of self-determination. A funky piano complements Irma’s saucy original, “These Honey Dos”. She is laying down the law to her man. There are jazzy chord changes and a lot of humor (…Honey, you better choose, do you want me or these Honey Dos…”), driving the point home. It fades with talking vocals. The instrumentalists on this album are first-rate. “Another Lonely Heart” has an unusual combination of fiddle/electric guitar and electric piano (Powell and Torkanowsky respectively) to create a soul-country tapestry. Thomas’ vocal adroitness and flexibility are outstanding. As she muses that “…disappointment knows me well”, the wistful country mood is palpable in her glowing voice. Switching to classic blues, “Soul Of A Man” (Blind Willie Johnson) is a simple Delta-infused arrangement with deep brooding sentiment. Thomas amps up the pace on “Stone Survivor”. It rocks out with hard-driving potency. She has an integrity to her vocal command. The finale, “Shelter In The Rain” (Stevie Wonder) is pure gospel elegance, translated with voice and piano. It is uplifting, and fits the soulful contours of Irma Thomas perfectly. 

After The Rain is an exceptional album. The 180-gram vinyl re-mastering emphasizes the higher studio production and shines a light on the different levels and nuances of this unique vocalist. The overall mix is well-balanced with great separation.    

Side A:
In The Middle Of It All; Flowers: I Count The Tears

Side B:
Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor; I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free; If You Knew How Much; Another Man Done Gone

Side C:
Till I Can’t Take It Anymore; These Honey Dos; Another Lonely Heart

Side D:
Soul Of A Man; Stone Survivor; Shelter In The Rain   

—Robbie Gerson    


Please visit Craft Recordings website for more information:

Logo Craft Recordings


Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Apollo's Fire
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01