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Just Because I'm Leavin'...

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Album Review

When Rufus Thomas passed away on December 15, 2001 at the age of 84, admirers could take some comfort in knowing that he had lived a long, productive life. Most of his major hits were recorded for Stax in the '60s and early '70s, but after Stax's collapse, Thomas continued to record from time to time — and he stayed in Memphis until the end. Although Thomas was actually born in Mississippi, Memphis is where he spent much of his life and recorded hits like "Walking the Dog" and "Do the Funky Chicken." It's also where he provided the 11 tracks on Just Because I'm Leavin', which contains material that was recorded in 1990 and 1991 but went unreleased until April 2005. Thomas makes no effort to appeal to the urban contemporary R&B/blues scene of the early '90s; "Miss Jane," "If There Were No Music" and other selections are straight-up, undiluted Memphis soul in the classic-'60s sense. Stylistically, there is very little difference between Just Because I'm Leavin' and the material he recorded for Stax 25- and 30-years-earlier; that is true on Thomas originals as well as an inspired remake of Merle Haggard's "Today I Started Loving You Again" (which shows how well a country song can lend itself to an R&B makeover). Not everything on this CD is soul in the strict sense; Just Because I'm Leavin' also contains some 12-bar blues performances, which only add to the album's Stax-like appeal — although R&B was Stax's main focus, they also put out their share of electric blues. Just Because I'm Leavin' falls short of essential; by the early '90s, Thomas was past his prime. But even so, this an enjoyable, noteworthy disc that hardcore collectors will welcome.


Born: 26 March 1917 in Cayce, MS

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Few of rock & roll's founding figures are as likable as Rufus Thomas. From the 1940s onward, he has personified Memphis music; his small but witty cameo role in Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train, a film which satirizes and enshrines the city's role in popular culture, was entirely appropriate. As a recording artist, he wasn't a major innovator, but he could always be depended upon for some good, silly, and/or outrageous fun with his soul dance tunes. He was one of the few rock or soul stars to reach his...
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