The first time I ever actually wept about a girl was while listening to an Al Green song. She chose her cats over me and, for obvious reasons, out the door she went. I spent the next few days like a teenage girl (a teenage girl with a serious drinking problem – which, remarkably, exists) listening to For The Good Times over and over again. It was sweet release from all my drama, just the way soul music is meant to be. I lived whatever pain I needed to, and then I moved on. That’s the gift of soul music.
The Reverend Al Green has been the undisputed King of Southern Soul for as many years as I’ve been alive. He’s been making faces (and panties)wet since the 60s and shows no signs of slowing up. You can hear the heartbreak of a life well lived in his voice. The pain must lead to eventual happiness and so, as surely as he can make you shed a tear, he can lift your soul higher than you’d ever dreamed possible.
Like many of my favorites from the 70s, I had assumed that the best was over for Al, but this is just not so. With the release of Lay It Down, he has made me a believer all over again. From the title track, which features Anthony Hamilton, to the simple sentiment of Standing In The Rain, Al Green has shown us all, yet again, what music is supposed to be about.
The tracks where the Reverend is all on his own hearken back to the 70s with simple organ parts, sparse guitar and poignant brass. He sings like a man on the brink of bursting with emotion. When he’s reserved, he sounds like he’s teetering, and when he lets loose, he gives you everything, on each and every track.
For me, the standout track on the album is a duet with Corinne Bailey Rae. Strings and brass and a perfectly simple rhythm section allow the two to explore the emotional content hidden in the melody. Having recently lost her husband to a drug overdose, Corinne singing, “I want to take a little time/before I fall in love again,” makes the track just that much more heartbreakingly beautiful. Their voices mesh together like two lovers in a hotel room in Paris who know they’re seeing each other for the last time before the war.
A glass of red wine, some candles, and Al Green to share with the one you love, or think about the one that got away.