Carol Fran and Clarence Hollimon, Soul Sensation (Black Top Records)

Once again Black Top reintroduces the world to some master blues musicians who could easily have slipped through the cracks of time. And once again the world should thank them for the results. Both are a living history of rhythm and blues: Fran, a stalwart at New Orleans’ Dew Drop Inn during its hey-day, and Hollimon, a busy session man best known for sides cut with Bobby Blue Bland. Fran’s full alto soul-from-the-gut singing and Hollimon’s tasteful lyric guitar work are worthy of two separate albums, but together they deliver a deadly one-two punch. And they cover a broad spectrum of blues, from New Orleans R&B to Texas shuffle, gospel, zydeco, swing and bossa nova. Helpin’ ’em out is George Porter, Jr. on bass; Lynn August, a former drummer for Fran, on accordion and rubboard; and local organ-keys man Sammy Berfect, to name a few. The late James “Thunderbird” Davis, here on his last recording, reunites with Fran on a couple of duets, the bouncy gospel ”This Little Light” and the R&B “Bring It On Home To Me,” which they first sang together three decades ago. Fran’s soul wafts from her heart through the speakers on Earl King’s “I’ll Make Your Life Sunshine”; she is alluring and reassuring as she sings out the words “I’m going to make the rest of your life worthwhile.” She sings intimate and personal on the soul-wrenching ballad “I Had A Talk With My Man.” The perfect foil, Hollimon is one of those musicians willing and able to play in character with whatever a song calls for, through all types of styles, whether a mean biting blues or a sweet soul ballad. With a lull jazz guitar tone, he solos melodically and keeps it interesting, telling stories and singing through the guitar. On ”Tin-Tin-De-O,” he plays a sweet chord melody. He solos tastefully and burns smoothly through the swing section, proving his chops for jazz. Superb soul-drenched musicianship and a diverse collection of blue matter make this a definite “Soul Sensation.”