Barbara Carr, Keep the Fire Burning (Catfood Records)

Barbara Carr, Keep the Fire Burning, album cover

It’s been almost 50 years since Barbara Carr signed with Chess Records and launched a recording career that has seen more downs than ups. Discovered by Oliver Sain, Carr became the successor to Fontella “Rescue Me” Bass in Sain’s band and in 1966 recorded “Don’t Knock Love” and “I Can’t Stop Now,” a pair of songs that could have been hits if Chess had been paying attention.

Carr became a well-kept secret in St. Louis, sometimes sharing the bill with a young Etta James. She ran her own record company and cut a series of “adult” albums with songs such as “Bone Me Like You Own Me” and “Footprints on the Ceiling.”

Carr, now 71, continues to be a vibrant performer, and Keep the Fire Burning documents that talent well. Produced by Mississippi soulman Johnny Rawls, the album delivers a full measure of Barbara Carr telling stories about loneliness, yearning and the excitement of finding an old flame.

On “I Got the Blues,” Carr delves into autobiography as she sings about learning from fellow St. Louis musicians Albert King and Little Milton. Another highlight: her duet with Rawls on “Hold On to What You Got.”