Album: Irma Thomas, Simply Grand (Decca/Rounder)

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The Independent Culture

The title is a clue to the album's contents twice over.

For one, 'Simply Grand' is an album by a grande dame of New Orleans R&B backed by piano and not much else. For two, it is grand – dignified swinging, simple and soulful music, strengthened with gospel girders and audibly laced with wisdom born of experience. The voice is capacious in its lower contralto register, slightly inaccurate higher up – but always embracing and warm. And if Dr John is, like the weather, inescapable, then we should also be grateful for the mingled pianistics of Norah Jones, Henry Butler, Ellis Marsalis and Randy Newman. NC

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