Although Millie Jackson’s sassy big city image suggests otherwise, she’s a country gal. Born in rural Georgia, Millie grew up listening to country music as there were no R&B stations in the area. It was only when she moved to New Jersey as a teenager that she had the chance to regularly hear anything else.
Almost every album Millie made between 1975 and 1981 contained at least one country song. In 1977 she reached #5 on the Soul chart with ‘If You’re Not Back in Love By Monday’, a big hit for its writer Merle Haggard earlier that year. Millie also turned Kenny Rogers’ groundbreaking ‘Sweet Music Man’ into a Top 40 Soul hit in 1978.
In 1980 Millie cut an album that lived up to its title of “Just A Li’l Bit Country” but the record did not receive the promotion it deserved due to personnel changes at her record company. Millie regards it as something of a “lost album” and is pleased we are able to include several of its tracks in this new collection of her Soul Country material.
The sweep ranges from 1950s classics such as Don Gibson’s ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ and Charlie Walker’s ‘Pick Me Up On Your Way Down’ to songs that were nearly new when Millie put her stamp on them – Dolly Parton’s ‘Here You Come Again’ and her duet with Isaac Hayes on Anne Murray’s ‘You Needed Me’ (both Country chart-toppers) being two examples. Millie always picked her own material, usually in conjunction with producer Brad Shapiro. She chose all the songs here because she liked them and frequently liked the singers who sang them originally.
‘Black Bitch Crazy’, Millie’s makeover of Tyler Farr’s recent Country chart-topper ‘Redneck Crazy’ – created especially for this album and her first new recording in 10 years – shows she can still interpret a country song in a compelling and contemporary way. Millie cut it this year after hearing Farr’s record on the radio and identifying with its message. It’s as good as anything she recorded at the peak of her chart popularity and is a more than welcome addition to her discography.
They say “you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl”. The selection of songs and performances here show just how true that is in Millie Jackson’s case.
By Tony Rounce