Ursula Ricks Review
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker
I'd never really considered that there might be a 'funk-soulblues' category because, well, the blues is so damn funky anyway. Funk arose when a buncha clever Black and White bastards dug deep and adopted a cat-that-got-the-cream grin upon realizing that there was an increasing under-current connection between blues, soul, and rock & roll (which, after all, was at first but the spawn of two things: either blues gone White or Tin Pan Alley pop with a stronger beat). Upon listening to Ursula Ricks' My Street, though, I'm thinking that 'funk-soulblues' just might be emerging fairly distinctly. Catch Mary Jane, and see if I'm not right. Funkeeeeeee! And the following My Street is just as down 'n dirty, spirited, and, as most all her songs, highly socio-political, which I find extremely attractive. The lyrics to this one are compelling as hell, 100% street poetry in the purest sense—not just that the lines rhyme but that they actually mean something well beyond the words, an increasing rarity in our increasingly too simplistic society.
The unit that shined so brightly on Lou Pride's last recording, Ain't No More Love in this House (here), reappears behind Ricks and just may be Severn Records own Wrecking Crew. Once again, Johnny Moeller's guitaristics add luster and nuance, and if he isn't in line in perhaps becoming the next Steve Cropper, then I'll eat my hat. Time will tell, but the seeds are there. The string section is a nice addition (it didn't appear on Pride's farewell), as in Due, but Ursula gets right back to growly business on Right Now, Moeller with a very subtle wah-wahed background before blazing up front in the middle eight. More important, and this is sometimes missed in critiques of funk units, is the onslaught of an irresistible groove, on this cut slow and relentless but just as demanding as any speedy whirlwind.
Kim Wilson sits in for a cut, Mike Welch for two, but the spotlight is ever on Ricks and her quiet revolutionary state of mind. You don't find that second part until you get away from the instrumentalities and listen closely and even not-so-closely to her lyrics (she wrote almost everything on My Street), which, to my mind, bring her in line with Gil Scott-Heron. Not so fiercely, much more matter-of-factly (Gil was, after all, a clever upstart), no Party-line spreche, no dogma, no bullshit, just a discontent with what drives the everyday mess we now live in. We need a hell of a lot more of that, y'all, and a whole lot less academic mouth-breathing. The place to start, I say, is right here…especially 'cause it's the music that will first drag you into her living breathing concerns.