Bentley's Bandstand: Cyndi Lauper's Memphis Blues

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BY BILL BENTLEY

Cyndi Lauper, Memphis Blues, Mercer Street Records

Good God, ya’ll. The Queen of Sheen has traveled a long and dusty road to get to Memphis, Tennessee — home of the blues and all kinds of other sonic shenanigans.

Cyndi Lauper got her nose opened, no doubt, regarding these succulent sounds and decided she wanted to do something about it. Being a vocal master–who can listen to “Time after Time” even today and not go a little weak in the knees? The woman enlisted some of Bluff City’s best musicians, including Hi Records’ rhythm section Howard Grimes on drums and bassist Leroy Hodges, and swept up a lucky eleven songs to make her play for posterity. Surprisingly, Lauper gets mighty close, choosing songs that allow her voice to turn totally seductive. Big Bill Broonzy’s “Romance in the Dark” can melt the coldest heart, while Albert King’s “Down Don’t Bother Me” gets in the gutter and stays there. The other nine selections are just as moving, but special mention should be made of Memphis Slim’s “Mother Earth.” Allen Toussaint’s piano sounds downright heroic before Cyndi Lauper’s voice even enters. But when she does, she owns the song, scooting right up there with Memphis Slim and Tracy Nelson’s versions. Only Lauper knows if she had any trepidation jumping into the blues pool, but one listen to this album proves she was born to do it. The lady has always been fearless, and there is surely no reason to stop now. She might reconsider before crawling into a birdcage to be photographed again, but like she once sang: girls just want to have fun.

Bill Bentley is a writer, musician, publicist, record producer and A&R director. He once played drums with Lightnin’ Hopkins.

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Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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