Today I give thanks for one of the great timeless voices, Etta James.
James is more R&B than blues, but it was through her association with Chess Records that I really got to know her beyond her classic "At Last," which rates as one of a small handful of perfect musical moments in all of human history.
I took a circuitous path to the blues but when I started my voyage, I began with two single-disc Chess Records samplers and from there expanded to the 4-CD Chess Blues box set. I devoured those six CDs and from them, a handful of favorites emerged and James is one of them.
When I bought my Etta James box set, one of the first things I learned was that I knew one of her songs from a Dockers' commercial. I remembered thinking that voice sounded familiar, but it wasn't until I heard "A Sunday Kind Of Love" that I put it all together. It's been a favorite of mine since- the song, not the pants.
In addition to just loving the sound of her voice, there's something special about the way she interprets a song that makes her stand out from just about anyone else I've ever heard. It doesn't matter what she's singing about, there's an ever-present warmth in her voice that fascinates me. Whether singing of love or heartbreak, there's a magical quality to her voice that feels reassuring. Even when she takes on the role of a sassy, assertive diva there's still something mesmerizing about what she does.
Her voice is a rare gift and national treasure that takes me to a place I don't go to when I listen to anyone else.