Beverley Knight celebrates the music, sounds and legacy of Memphis on her new album, Soulsville, out now on East West.
Recorded in a week long session in February 2016 at (Al Green producer) Willie Mitchell’s legendary Royal Studios in Memphis (site of the recording of Mark Ronson’s and Bruno Marrs’ Grammy winning Uptown Funk as well as every Al Green classic you can think of), Soulsville sees Beverley return to the city she fell in love with during preparations for her 2015 Oliver Award nominated role in the hit west end show Memphis The Musical, to record her 8th studio album.
Named after the Memphis neighbourhood that housed the iconic Stax Records and where Royal Studios still stands, Soulsville takes in original songs and a handful of Memphis classics. The album explores the sounds and reflects the soulful vibes of a city that gave us the likes of Al Green, Booker T, Howlin Wolf and Aretha Franklin. The album features a collection of stirring new songs co-written by Beverley with the likes of Jimmy Hogarth (Adele, Duffy)-with whom she co wrote opening single Middle Of Love and Matty Benbrook (Paolo Nutini).
Soulsville, Knight’s first album for almost five years, following her all conquering stint in the West End, also sees her celebrate Memphis classics in three stunning collaborations. Firstly with Jamie Cullum on a stunning version of William Bell and Judy Clay’s ‘Private Number’, then Jools Holland on a version of Big Momma Thornton’s ‘Hound Dog’ (later a monster hit for Elvis Presley and a nod to the inextricable link between Memphis and The King) and finally with original Memphis soul man Sam Moore of Sam and Dave, giving their super high energy take on the duo’s classic stomper ‘Hold On I’m Coming’.
Three time MOBO winner Knight follows in the illustrious footsteps of great artists including Dusty Springfield who have all taken the journey to Memphis to drink in the city’s unique musical vibes. When she first visited the city in 2014, to research her role in the award winning Memphis the Musical, Beverley was struck by both the feeling and the music emanating from the bars of Beale St and the churches of the Memphis suburbs into the studios of Stax, Royal, and Sun.
“As soon as I walked into Royal I knew I had to record an album there. It had such a great vibe and it turned out the best recording experience I’ve ever had.”
Produced by Justin Stanley (Beck, Eric Clapton, Prince) with Willie Mitchell’s son Boo Mitchell engineering, and featuring some of the original Hi records/Al Green players including brothers Leroy and Charles Hodges on bass and Hammond respectively, Soulsville is a stunner. Beverley sings her heart out on Al Green’s mic and the sessions crackle with the live, one -take energy that Knight relishes. The result is a remarkable new album, sure to please Knight’s long time fans while winning her a legion of new ones.