No tags :(

Share it




Too often in rock’s early years a record came along that was assembled like Frankenstein’s monster – taking body parts from multiple musical sources, many of them coming from well outside of rock’s borders. Now that the genre was fully formed this wasn’t happening quite as much as it did a few years back, but obviously we haven’t gotten past it completely just yet.

As a result every once in awhile we’ll still encounter an artist who would be forced to walk around on somebody else’s feet while holding the microphone with another artist’s arm hastily stitched onto their shoulder.

Considering how they’ve already abused her it’s hardly surprising that Varetta Dillard is the victim this time around.

The strange thing is however, in spite of the mismatched parts she winds up not letting the record fall apart at the seams.


Pack My Suitcase And Leave You Far Behind
We’ve repeatedly belittled Savoy producer Lee Magid for forcing Varetta Dilliard into an endless game of impersonating somebody else… namely Ruth Brown… which while getting her one big hit meant he was neglecting to build up her own identity which would have more long term value, so we can dispense with regurgitating those details yet again.

But even though this wasn’t a straight down the line rip-off of Brown, there’s still enough of her traits evident in how Dillard is asked to put this over for us to be wary of its intentions.

That however, is something we’ve come to expect. What’s a little new to us in dealing with her records is the source material, as Double Crossing Daddy comes from a writing team composed of Johnny Otis’s bassist, Mario Delagarde, and Rick Darnell, who together have been contributing some nice compositions to Federal Records over the last year.

Most of their songs have been tackled by a variety of female vocalists – Dorothy Ellis, Lil Greenwood, Shirley Haven, Little Esther – so landing one with Varetta Dillard makes sense in that regard, but considering the acrimonious departure of Otis’s crew from Savoy’s chintzy employ, it’s a little hard to fathom them offering a song to Magid of all people, especially since they were situated on the opposite coast.

Of course it could be that with a title closely related to Otis’s 1950 classic, Double Crossing Blues, which was the biggest rock hit Savoy had this decade, they felt they might get a few extra bucks out of the label. Then again maybe because this composition, or at least this arrangement, seems to be pulling from a variety of styles – a little blues, a little rock, some jazzier horns – they deemed it one they could dispose of to another company rather than the one they were now more or less affiliated with as major contributors.

As a result it’s probably not going to be vying for hit status, even though Dillard manages to do a good job with it and have you once again wishing she’d be allowed to cut better songs in her own way rather than force us to look for hints of what she’d be capable of if they simply left her to her own devices.


Sleep All Day Long And Walk The Street All Night
The gutbucket strains of the guitar give it a blues feel out of the gate, but the prancing piano and swirling horns suggest it’s not so clear cut as that. When Varetta Dillard comes strutting into the frame with a rock attitude laid bare, you’re glad she’s steering this towards our side of the street, but once again you’re wondering why they didn’t make sure the band was escorting her as she went along.

The stylistic divide never gets so wide that it’s insurmountable, but it does pull the song in different directions just enough to never feel completely comfortable, even as Dillard tries keeping a firm grip on the wheel.

Of course it doesn’t help that she’s being compelled to toss in a few nods to Ruth Brown along the way, particularly how she squeezes some of the words in her larynx to produce a squealing effect. It’s disconcerting as always because Brown’s too big of a star to not start subconsciously thinking it’s her. When Dillard deviates from that however, as she should, we’re kind of caught off guard wondering where Ruth disappeared to, and yet if she sticks with it we’re let down that she’s not able to make her own choices regarding her delivery.

But the song itself as written is good enough to almost dismiss the effect. The plot of Double Crossing Daddy may be fairly standard as Dillard is complaining about her “no good” fella, but the examples she gives are colorful and it’s got a really good hook, a staggered punchline wherein she repeats the “let you go” closing three times in descending fashion, giving it enough of a melodic twist to feel really fresh.

The musicians are carrying out their duties well enough, even though a slightly lighter tone on Mickey Baker’s guitar and more driving horn charts would’ve left no doubt as to its DNA. Even with some momentary confusion though it doesn’t take much to get your bearings as the attention remains firmly on the vocals with everything else just adding some color more or less. The sax solo won’t set the world on fire but thankfully doesn’t take this in another direction, thereby allowing it to maintain the momentum Dillard had built up.

The end result is this is a suitable enough song for our tastes without being overly concerned with getting our full approval.

Call it conditional approval then wherein we acknowledge the work everyone puts in with one notable exception… the guy behind the glass making the decision to squander the talents of the artist who even when she delivers good performances on both sides of a single is still going to be overshadowed by someone not even on the record, in the room or belonging to the label.


(Visit the Artist page of Varetta Dillard for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)