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Lady J Houston - Groove Me Baby

Release date: June 14, 2023

Earwig Records
By James Porter

Joyce Huston, better known as Lady J Huston, is an acclaimed trumpeter and arranger who also sings in a variety of styles and octave ranges. Based in St. Louis, her mother, Loyce Huston, was a staple on the local gospel, jazz and blues scenes. Joyce herself resided in Las Vegas for 25 years, fronting the award-winning band Lady J Huston & the Fireballs. Returning to the St. Louis area in 2018, Lady J and her new band played their first show at the National Blues Museum.

Her new album, Groove Me Baby on Chicago’s Earwig label, does a good job of putting her skills on display. She is joined by 30 stellar musicians, including the 18-piece Jazz Edge Orchestra, that provide a dynamic backdrop to Lady J’s nine originals and three covers.

Horn players are quite underrated in contemporary blues, and arrangers are even more so. The mega-talented Lady J shows why either shouldn't be taken for granted. The horns land in the right place, the male chorus chimes in at the correct time, and even the odd synthesizer here and there has taste. Her trumpet solos bring the right atmosphere to blues grooves. She was a music theory/composition major at Howard University, and her arrangements demonstrate clearly why she made the Dean's List! In addition to leading her own band, Lady J and her trumpet also apprenticed behind the distinguished likes of Albert King and Johnnie Johnson (all before she reached the age of 20). She includes a tribute to her former boss with a cover of “Born Under a Bad Sign” on which she adds her own soulful touch.

There are hints of 1950s jump blues on this record, making the songs jump out at you with the right touch of pizzazz. “Mean Stud Lover’s Blues,” a swingin’, uptempo jazzy blues number with some killer horns, is included twice – as a vocal number and later as an instrumental. Both versions deliver equally as well.

Of special note is the racy “500 Pounds Good Gizzay” -- an upbeat, jamming number written by Mama Loyce. Daughter Joyce has big fun with it, as she sings her heart out with vocals that scat, growl, swoop and soar into the whistle tones.

The only serious weak spot on the album are the lyrics, which sometimes border on cliche and don't tell you much you don't already know. "Corona You Make Me Sick!" doesn't really go far beyond the title, and others are a little more predictable, with ideas that could have been fleshed out a little more. Perhaps Lady J prefers to let her expressive trumpet and exotic vocals do the talking. Maybe she could use a lyricist on her next album, but the grooves carry the day. It certainly worked for James Brown.

If you loved the brass arrangements on B.B. King's 1960s records, this is a swingin’, jazzy, jumpin’ blues album to watch out for.


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Dear Mr. Porter,

I so appreciate this very studied review. Thank you so much for taking the time & I'm overly ecstatic that you enjoyed the album.

Many blessings,

Lady J

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