Tracy Nelson was one of the major blues mamas of the hippie era, a real song-belter who is best known for her earthshaking rendition of "Down So Low," originally recorded with her band Mother Earth. In the decades since, she's established herself as a soulful survivor and a blues-scene elder, still belting 'em out with a powerful voice and indomitable spirit. Here's a quick look at her work...
Tracy Nelson "The Best Of Tracy Nelson & Mother Earth" (Warner, 1996)
Tracy Nelson "Deep Are The Roots" (Prestige, 1965)
Mother Earth "Living With The Animals" (Mercury, 1968)
Mother Earth "Make A Joyful Noise" (Mercury, 1969)
Mother Earth "Presents Tracy Nelson Country" (Mercury, 1969)
Mother Earth "Satisfied" (Mercury, 1970)
Mother Earth "Bring Me Home" (Warner/Reprise, 1971)
Tracy Nelson "Mother Earth" (Warner/Reprise, 1972)
Tracy Nelson "Poor Man's Paradise" (Columbia, 1973)
Tracy Nelson "Tracy Nelson" (Atlantic, 1974)
Tracy Nelson "Sweet Soul Music" (MCA, 1975)
Tracy Nelson "Time Is On My Side" (MCA, 1976)
Tracy Nelson "Doin' It My Way" (Audio Directions, 1978) (LP)
Tracy Nelson "Homemade Songs" (Flying Fish, 1978)
Tracy Nelson "Come See About Me" (Flying Fish, 1980)
(Produced by Travis Rivers)
Nice singing, I guess, but the slick pop-soul production and the meticulous, controlled feel of the music is a definite turnoff. Nelson never really cuts loose on any tracks, or digs into the earthy, gritty blues that made her early stuff so much fun. Plus, wimpy disco riffs: meh. I guess there's a Muscle Shoals thing going on that might appeal to the more R&B-ish among us, but this slick set didn't do much for me.
Tracy Nelson "In The Here And Now" (Rounder, 1993)
Tracy Nelson "I Feel So Good" (Rounder, 1995)
(Produced by Tommy Goldsmith)
Sort of a standard-issue modern blues disc... Nelson dips into a more acoustic vibe on a couple of tunes, but she doesn't really linger there; mostly it's louder, harder, slicker blues-and-soul arrangements. It's played with energy and enthusiasm, but not my kinda style.
Tracy Nelson "Move On" (Rounder, 1996)
Tracy Nelson/Marcia Ball/Irma Thomas "Sing It!" (1998)
Tracy Nelson "Live From Cell Block D" (Memphis International, 2003)
I bet the fellas at the West Tennessee Detention Center had fun when Tracy came to entertain the troops... This is a nice, solid house-rockin' set, with lots of the same old favorites ("Down So Low," etc.) and a few nice new surprises (a rough live version of "Got A New Truck..."). This was a little too modern-blues for me, but it's still a nice set from one of the grand dames of rowdy roadhouse blues. (PS - yes, someday, I'll get off my duff and write up a proper profile of Ms. Nelson, whose work in the early 1970s helped lay the groundwork for modern blues-roots gal singing... I promise!)
Tracy Nelson "You'll Never Be A Stranger At My Door" (Memphis International, 2007)
Much as I hate to say it, I'm just not feeling the power this time around... Four decades into her career, Nelson's still got deep, deep roots, but her voice has thickened considerably and she's gotta work pretty hard to get the old mojo flowing. Here she tackles some great oldies -- "The Cow-Cow Boogie," Ernest Tubb's "Thanks A Lot," Don Gibson's "Oh Lonesome Me," "I Still Miss Someone," and some new tunes as well, like "Salt Of The Earth," which features guest vocals from Guy Clark. Guitarist Fats Kaplin adds some sweet licks, and all things considered, this is a pretty strong set. It's a heartfelt effort from a pioneer of the Americana movement, and old-time fans will probably be psyched to hear her back in action. Still, it's a little too raspy for me, though, so I guess I'll pass on this one. Worth checking out, though, especially if you're in a somewhat folkie mood.
Tracy Nelson "Ebony & Ivory" (Eclectic, 2007)
Hick Music Index