Tell You What I Know

DeChamp (US) DC 100214

Souled Out; Hey You; I Got What You Need; My Kinda Man; No Turning Back; Can You Let Somebody Else Be Strong; I’ma Make It; I Believe; Just Enough; Rhinestones; Tell You What I Know

Despite having her own website at and there being a biography thereon, I can’t tell you what J.J. Thames’ initials stand for but I can tell you that she was born and raised in Detroit but that her musical teeth were cut after moving south of the Mason-Dixon line to Jackson, Mississippi.  The classical and jazz-trained lady began performing at the age of nine but, only now, a proud thirty-year-old, is she getting her debut album after receiving numerous accolades as a live performer.  Accompanied by a whole bunch of musicians, including fellow DeChamp Records’ artist, Eddie Cotton - whose new set, ‘Here I Come’ is reviewed here - ‘Tell You What I Know’ saves the title track for last.  Penned by Cotton, Thames herself and producer/keyboardist, Sam Brady, it’s an intense, autobiographical ballad with femme support (all provided by the lady) that leaves you wanting to hear much more of J.J. Thames.  The preceding ten tracks are no simple ‘warm-up acts’ either, ‘Souled Out’ opening the whole as a short African-style chant over a single drum as J.J. wails atop as some rhythmic claps add to the effect.  The self-penned ‘Hey You’ and the brass-supported ‘I Got What You Need’ - a Grady Champion-Eddie Cotton-J.J. Thames-Sam Brady composition - both strut along around midtempo, ‘My Kinda Man’ is a ballad that drifts along nicely and Thames and Brady’s ‘No Turning Back’ is a beat-ballad rippler that might have been even better without Vince Barranco’s dominant drums and Eddie Cotton’s guitar break.  All that is more than adequate on an overall average-to-good album but it’s from that point on that this set becomes good-to-splendid...  ‘Can You Let Somebody Else Be Strong’ is a superb, southern soul ballad (credited to Jim McCormick and Fred Wilhelm), with J.J. providing her own femme support and the drumming played just down to the right levels.  By contrast, ‘I’ma Make It’ is funky and gritty, while Ray Charles ‘I Believe To My Soul’ gets a bluesy, big-band treatment and again the lady’s own support vocals.  ‘Just Enough’, another southern-style number this time written by Frederick Knight with Jon and Sally Tiven, pulsates like a good ‘un and ‘Rhinestones’ takes us back to ballad territory, in a fine, moody, country style, all just to get us in the mood for that brilliant title track.  Tell you what, J.J....  you’ve got yourself a...

*****STAR PICK