Blues/Soul Singer Tia Carroll Is Little Village’s Latest Discovery On Soaring ‘You Gotta Have It’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

By now, blues and soul fans know the consistent track record of the Little Village Foundation, which is doing more than its part in giving much-needed attention to talented and underrecognized artists. Such is the case with Bay Area blues and soul powerhouse Tia Carroll, who brings soul, passion, and sass while accompanied by the producers Jim Pugh and Kid Andersen. Those names are associated with Greaseland USA, which is of course the recording site, but the two bluesmen also found some strong material for the vocalist, who also brought in three of their own songs. Although Carroll has been performing in the Bay Area for decades with her own band and has recorded in Italy and Brazil, this is surprisingly her first stateside studio recording.

In reviews of other Little Village artists (Sonny Green, Ron Thompson, and Sons of the Soul Revivers to name a few) you’ve seen many of these names – Jim Pugh (piano, organ), Kid Andersen (guitar), Lisa Leuscher Andersen (vocals) and D’Mar Martin (drums).  The Sons of the Soul Survivors also contribute backgrounds, joined by bassist Steve Ehrmann, the renowned Charlie Hunter (playing guitar and bass simultaneously) on one track, drummer Paul Revelli, percussionist/vocalist Vicki Randle, and guitarist Igor Prado on one track. There is also a full horn section comprised of four or five depending on the track.

The album kicks off with “Ain’t Nobody Worryin’,” featuring the funky bass and guitar lines of Hunter and the gospel backing of The Sons, on a cover of a tune from soul star Anthony Hamilton that carries carrying the kind of groove we might associate with the late Bill Withers. She brings it down to simmer for her original, an exceptional soul ballad “Even When I’m Not Alone,” backed by Pugh’s swirling B3 and tasty soul licks from Andersen. “Our Last Time” will likely be familiar to Robert Cray fans as it’s a tune that he and Jim Pugh recorded during Pugh’s long tenure with the blues giant. Here Andersen soars in a Magic Sam vein on the guitar break. Rick Estrin of Nightcats fame is a longtime collaborator with Pugh and Andersen and Carroll covers his stern warning shuffle “Don’t Put Your Hands on Me,” written originally for the iconic Koko Taylor. This is the is first time we hear the blaring horn section – Mike Rinta (trombone), Rob Sudduth (tenor), Aaron Lington (baritone), and Jeff Lewis (trumpet). Sax Gordon Beadle joins for “Never Let Me Go,” another soul ballad, reminiscent of the chestnut “At Last.” 

 “Leaving Again” is another Carroll original and it takes on a funky ‘70s feel with Andersen’s use of the wah wah and Pugh at the Fender Rhodes. Her message song “Move On” features a scathing solo from frequent Greaseland collaborator, Brazilian guitarist Igor Prado. “Mama Told Me” has some of Carroll’s most wailing vocals while the rousing “Ready to Love Again,” written by the Andersens, sees the return of Sax Gordon Beadle. Her cover of Z.Z. Hill’s deep soul ballad “I Need Someone” and the closing Staples Singers “Why Am I Treated So Bad” are lifted by the stirring accompaniment of The Sons of the Soul Survivors. 

The takeaway after listening to such a talented vocalist is “why haven’t we heard of her before now?”  Kudos go to Executive Noel Hayes and the Little Village crew who bring us yet another stellar winner.

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