By David McGee
OUT OF THE SHADOWS Etta Britt
When approaching Etta Britt’s powerful Out of the Shadows album, it’s best you prepare both for a compelling blue-eyed soul-blues experience and for an emotional ride strictly of the emotional roller-coaster variety. Ms. Britt’s husky, sensuous voice is at its expressive best on a fine collection of tunes, some of the best being her original, intensely personal reflections on life passages.
For outside material she doesn’t mess around: the team of Billy Maddox, Paul Thorn and Lari White contributed the Memphis soul-tinged “High” (you’ll be sure you hear a fleeting quote from “Let’s Stay Together” as the song begins), steady groovin’ bit of self-flagellation Ms. Britt inflicts on herself for throwing good love away, her testimonial bolstered by the punch of a horn section and the fierce gospel-rooted backup vocals by the formidable trio of Bekka Bramlett, Vicki Hampton and Jackie Wilson; from the late, great Harlan Howard, she tackles Joe Simon’s monumental 1969 chart topper, “The Chokin’ Kind,” in a slow, thick, organ-bolstered groove that heightens the singer’s anguish over enmeshing herself in a suffocating relationship she recounts in breathless phrases betraying a Mavis Staples influence, as the the fabled McCary Sisters, daughters of the late Rev. Samuel McCrary of the Fairfield Four, console her with silky background vocals; from Michael McDonald and John Berry comes a wrenching, string- drenched heart breaker, “In the Tears,” concerning a woman’s last, desperate pleas as her relationship crashes all around her, with Chris Eddy’s gritty singing complementing a masterfully textured reading by Ms. Britt, who walks a fine line between resignation and seeking some form of reconciliation upon parting. All is not so bleak as these songs suggest, however.
Delbert McClinton makes the scene to reprise a funky version of his “Leap of Faith,” sparring energetically with Ms. Britt vocally as the percussion thumps, the horns pump, the piano struts and the guitar stings behind them in a buoyant, high spirited moment reminiscent of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at their rollicking best.