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Tryin' to Make a Little Love

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Album Review

For her third album, Tryin' to Make a Little Love, Boston's Michelle Willson traveled to New Orleans, worked with producer Scott Billington, and embraced a variety of material. Her singing was still brassy, sassy, and full of attitude, and she could still handle the type of invigorating 1940s/early-'50s jump blues for which she was known. But this isn't an album that neatly fits into any one category. Though retailers placed Tryin' to Make a Little Love in the blues bins, this isn't strictly a blues outing. Willson brings her passion to the jump blues of Dolly Cooper's "Ay La Bas," the Latin jazz of "Corazon de Hielo," and the Southern-style soul of "I Would Rather Do Without It." Also, her emotion can be heard on "Shifting Sand" (a Willson original), "Life Rolls On" and "Responsibility" (a Dr. John/Doc Pomus composition). Before this album came out, the singers Willson was most often compared to included Dinah Washington, Ruth Brown, and Big Maybelle — and they're still valid comparisons; this time, however, Etta James' name can be added to that list. While it doesn't hurt to name Willson's influences, it's important to point out that she's quite recognizable herself — Tryin' to Make a Little Love is the work of a singer who shouldn't be pigeonholed.


Born: 05 January 1958 in Massachusetts

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s

A gifted swing and jump blues vocalist, Michelle Willson -- a native of the Boston area -- began singing as a teenager, often fronting bands quixotically named after nonexistent members (for example, Mimi Jones and Alex Clayton). As a solo performer, she organized a well-received tribute to her singing idols Dinah Washington and Ruth Brown, then joined the band Evil Gal; again working solo in 1994, Willson issued her...
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Tryin' to Make a Little Love, Michelle Willson
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