Rolling Stone - 2/01/01, p.563.5 stars out of 5
- "...A solid return to roots, MATRIARCH finds James reclaiming her throne - and defying anyone to knock her off it."
Q - 6/01, p.1093 stars out of 5
- "...Still, with a voice like a blowtorch, Etta James is one of soul's great survivors..."
Muzik - 5/01, p.964 out of 5
- "...A big woman with a big voice to match....for real nostalgia the lady cannot be beaten."
Down Beat - 4/01, p.613.5 stars out of 5
- "...A testimonial to the staying power of [this] veteran belter....James sings with conviction about love lost and found. It's a very convincing story."
Vibe - 3/01, p.1963 discs out of 5
- "...Delicious....James' force-of-nature voice and hard-livin' attitude cut through the production gloss..."
Mojo (Publisher) - 1/02, p.71
Included in Mojo's "Best Blues Albums of 2001".
Mojo (Publisher) - 9/01, p.110
"...She comes into the harbor like a stately galleon, her sails full of warm wind..."
Personnel includes: Etta James (vocals); Bobby Murray, Josh Sklair, Leo Nocentelli (guitar); Jimmy Z Zavala (harmonica, tenor & baritone saxophones); Lee R. Thornburg (trumpet, valve trombone); Tom Poole (trumpet); David K. Matthews (piano); Mike Finnigan (Hammond B-3 organ); Sametto James (bass); Donto James (drums, percussion); Ross Locke (percussion, background vocals); Goldman Redding (background vocals).
Recorded at Fort Athens Studio, Riverside, California. Includes liner notes by Patricia Kannas.
MATRIARCH OF THE BLUES was nominated for the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Personnel: Etta James (vocals, background vocals); Josh Sklair (guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, slide guitar, keyboards); Bobby Murray, Leo Nocentelli (guitar); Jimmy "Z" Zavala (harmonica, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone); Tom Poole (trumpet); Donto Metto James (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixers: Donto Metto James; Sametto James.
Liner Note Author: Etta James.
Recording information: Fort Athens Studio, Riverside, CA.
Photographer: Sonny Mediana.
Sandwiched between trad jazz excursions BLUE GARDENIA and HEART OF A WOMAN came MATRIARCH OF THE BLUES, a millennial outing featuring Etta James unleashing her powerful growl on a wide-ranging mix of soul and rock & roll covers. This outing found a then 62-year old Peaches roaring over a crack band equally at home pumping punchy horns and a slinky groove into the Born Again-era Dylan nugget "Gotta Serve Somebody" and laying down a funky bed for O.V. Wright's tasty "Don't Let My Baby Ride." Not surprisingly, James's strongest moments come on ballads like Ray Charles's gospel-flavored "Come Back Baby" and Ann Peebles's pleading "You're Gonna Make Me Cry."
This veteran vocalist easily slips into the swamp-rock pocket of CCR's "Born On The Bayou" and rides herd over a particularly crisp reading of Big Mama Thornton's oft-covered "Hound Dog." Even The Rolling Stones' disco anthem "Miss You" is given an even more lascivious twist by an undulating mid-tempo groove that replaces the dance beat with flamenco-like nuances and luscious sounding horns.