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When someone goes to such lengths to imiate another artist on a different label who has better material than this, what exactly are they trying to tell us?

That they’re hoping we’ll somehow be fooled into thinking this is actually Ruth Brown singing under an assumed name on a rival label, running the risk that we’ll search the record stores for this title on Atlantic or search jukeboxes for Brown’s name and pass over Varetta Dillard altogether?

Or are they saying that their own artist has decidedly less appeal when utilizing her own distinct voice and we should probably give up on her altogether and focus our attention on the one they’re busy ripping off?

Either way it probably doesn’t say much about Savoy’s faith in Varetta Dillard.


What’s The Trouble?
Imitative records are hardly an anomaly in music and in fact can be very successful… if done sporadically that is.

We’ve already encountered the likes of H-Bomb Ferguson who channeled Wynonie Harris at every turn, even got a small regional hit in the process, but would never go beyond that image as a second rate copycat, entertaining though he may be.

We know record companies could care less about building an artist’s career or encouraging their creativity… all they want is to sell records by whatever means necessary and if that means ripping off a bigger act to get a hit, even if in the process it might hurt their long-term prospects, so be it.

So the fact that Savoy Records would do this with Varetta Dillard’s second release, Hurry Up, is hardly surprising.

But maybe it wasn’t Savoy Records who were fully responsible for this and instead might’ve been Varetta Dillard herself who thought her ability to sound uncannily like Ruth Brown was a cool thing to show off.

It helps to remember that in the fall of 1950 when Teardrops From My Eyes became a smash Dillard was just 16 years old, certainly the prime age group when it comes to having adoration for an up and coming female rock star like Brown. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, especially when you’re still unsure of who YOU are going to be at the time.

But she’s no longer an amateur singing like her idol to attract attention. Instead Dillard turns 19 this month and is a professional artist whose job is to come up with something to compete with Brown, not pay homage to her.



I Never Did No Wrong
Artists’ styles are like fingerprints… each one is unique. Therefore to consciously try and replicate that style is almost like a form of identity theft and as a result this isn’t a record that is going to be judged by listeners in a normal way.

Everything Ruth Brown was known for is here, front and center… A rolling rhythm that surges at the start of the lines with a horn rejoinder to close each one out, topped off by the voice which holds certain notes for emphasis and features subtle but unmistakable vocal DNA like the manner in which Dillard peaks in the middle of the last word of each line before dropping back down to abruptly cut it off.

As misguided as it is, at least Dillard puts forth a very credible effort on Hurry Up, adroitly riding the rhythm laid down by the band which shows that their excessively mannered arrangement on Please Tell Me Why was not a sign they were incapable of cutting a legitimate rock track. Drummer Lester Jenkins stands out here with some herky-jerky beats while Count Hastings provides a pretty good sax solo to start with before it gets too unfocused with unwanted help by the trombone played by the immortal Elmer Crumbley.

Of course the band also are at fault for one of the more glaring shortcomings here which is the uninspired vocal interjections of the title line in response to Dillard. Not only do they sound weak unto themselves, but it also brings added attention to the fact that the chorus is lacking any real narrative impact.

The overall story – which Dillard wrote – is decent enough though as she’s wailing about being left by her man. While it remains too fixated on her purely emotional response to this romantic crisis she does manage to switch up the details a little to bring more depth to her feelings as it goes on. Particularly winning is how she informs us she “never prayed before but now I’m on bended knee”, a nice touch that manages to convey the depths of her anguish in a roundabout way.

You can tell she thought that was a good twist too, because unfortunately she returns to this theme repeatedly after that which can’t help but lessen the effect each time she prays for something else.

I guess in the end that’s emblematic of the record’s shortcomings. Dillard’s skills are readily apparent but she’s undercut by her lack of polish as a songwriter, something evident when she pulls a surprise revelation in the last line which negates most of what she told us leading up to that.

In time she’ll learn how to inspect the lyrics for repetitiveness, figure out how to build a plot rather than merely present a scenario and will hopefully come to understand that the chorus is the selling point of a song rather than as simply a way to sum up that which has already been laid out in detail.

While all of those changes will come with experience, the more crucial lesson she’ll need to learn is that in order to make a name for yourself, you can’t be reliant on somebody else’s image. Until she consciously decides to rid herself of that trait she’ll always pale in comparison to the real thing.


You’ll Find Your Mama Gone
A record like this winds up doing less for Varetta Dillard than it does for Ruth Brown who – as long as nobody mistakes it for her and finds fault with it not being up to par with her usual output – cements her status as the artist at the front of the pack.

While Dillard does a competent job in most areas and Hurry Up remains an enjoyable casual listen, it’s not her that others will be talking about when they hear this.

The thing to always remember as a relatively new artist is that your goal should be to throw down the gauntlet with each release, announcing with your performance that the competition is going to have to go through you from now on if they want to be considered elite.

Instead Dillard only confirms that Brown is that pace setter and no matter how close she could replicate her style, it’s still Ruth Brown’s style, not Varetta Dillard’s.

That might still be good enough to have a decent sounding record every now and then, but it’s not how to build a career of your own.


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