- Released: August 12, 2008
- Label: Rounder / Umgd
Rolling Stone - p.883.5 stars out of 5
-- "[A] set of understated piano-based songs by Crescent City's long-reigning queen of soul....Thomas' versions of these stark, powerful tunes help SIMPLY GRAND live up to its title."
Down Beat - p.813 stars out of 5
-- "She holds one's attention with sophisticated presentations of emotion..."
Dirty Linen - p.50
"SIMPLY GRAND celebrates the Crescent City's legacy of great piano players, with Thomas accompanied on each track by a different pianist."
Billboard (p.41) - "[Her voice] is a rare blend of smooth simplicity and heart-cracking emotion....Randy Newman's 'I Think It's Going to Rain Today' closes the set with a bittersweet touch."
Paste (magazine) (p.57) - "There's delicate jazz with Ellis Marsalis, punchy funk with Dr. John, ornate wizardry with Tom McDermott and sophisticated beauty with Randy Newman, all held together by a singer who lands straight in the heart of every song."
- 1.River Is Waiting - (featuring Henry Butler)
- 2.If I Had Any Sense I'd Go Back Home - (featuring Dr. John)
- 3.Too Much Thinking - (featuring Jon Cleary)
- 4.Early In The Morning - (featuring Tom McDermott)
- 5.What Can I Do - (featuring David Torkanowsky)
- 6.Underground Stream - (featuring David Egan)
- 7.Thinking About You - (featuring Norah Jones)
- 8.Be You - (featuring Dr. John)
- 9.This Bitter Earth - (featuring Ellis Marsalis)
- 10.Cold Rain - (featuring David Torkanowsky)
- 11.Somebody Told You - (featuring John Medeski)
- 12.Overrated - (featuring Davell Crawford)
- 13.Same Old Blues - (featuring Marcia Ball)
- 14.I Think It's Going To Rain Today - (featuring Randy Newman)
Personnel: Irma Thomas (vocals); Hannah Thiem (violin); Patricia Doucette (viola); Kristen Miller (cello); Jon Cleary (piano, percussion, background vocals); Davell Crawford, David Egan (piano, background vocals); David Torkanowsky, Tom McDermott & His Jazz Hellions, Dr. John, Ellis Marsalis, Henry Butler, John Medeski, Marcia Ball, Norah Jones, Randy Newman (piano); Steven "Steven J." Jordan, Jason Marsalis, Raymond Weber (drums); Michael Skinkus (congas, bongos); Alfred "Uganda" Roberts (congas, tambourine); Elaine Foster, Charles Elam III, Earl Smith , Erica Falls (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Adam Taylor; Paul Q. Kolderie.
Liner Note Author: Scott Billington.
Recording information: Piety Street Studio, New Orleans, LA (12/03/2007-04/02/2008); Sear Sound Studios, New York, NY (12/03/2007-04/02/2008); Sunset Sound Recorders, Hollywood, CA (12/03/2007-04/02/2008).
Photographers: Rick Olivier; Scott Billington.
New Orleans soul queen Irma Thomas tackles the duet-album concept with a difference on SIMPLY GRAND. The shockingly vibrant voice of the 67-year-old R&B belter is blissfully uncrowded by the presence of guest vocalists; instead, these duets find Thomas paired with a succession of famed pianists, including Dr. John, Ellis Marsalis, Norah Jones, and others. The novel concept works well throughout, but the most affecting moments are probably the sparse piano-and-vocal-only tracks Thomas recorded with Dr. John, where the subtleties of the veteran soul singer's rich sound can be most fully experienced. And if you think you've heard the definitive version of Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" before, you may reconsider upon catching Thomas and Newman's take on the melancholy marvel.