Modern-day blues diva Leela James’ Loving You More ... In the Spirit of Etta James is a fine and fitting tribute to the great Etta James, who passed away in February of this year.
Leela’s respect for James, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, is evident in this captivating 11-track project produced by Shannon Sanders and Drew Ramsey. The earthy brown liquor soul of the young blues singer is the perfect vehicle for Loving You More..., in which she does not try to emulate Etta James’ original vocals, choosing instead to present contemporary interpretations of them.
Etta James is the best female blues artist there ever was, said Leela, who last name is not James, rather a name that she adopted professionally because since childhood, people have told her that she sounded like Etta James.
I feel a special closeness to her music because of her life’s struggles, Leela explained. Very few artists are able to convey that sincere pain in their music. Etta, as well as so many artists, do not get their proper respect while they are living. It’s unfortunate that Etta is not here to experience this tribute. I am a fan of her music and supported her when she was alive. Doing a project like this is just an extreme way of honoring her and I always wanted to pay tribute to her.
Known for her enormous Afro, Leela transformed herself into a visually stunning image of James for this project, straightening her wild tresses and dying them blonde. She delivers a seductive rendition of the late Johnny Guitar Watson’s “I Want to Ta-Ta You Baby,” as well as “Nobody Loves You Like Me,” written by the late Motown legend Harvey Fuqua, in tandem with Gwen Gordy.
Leela shows her softer side with Sunday Kind of Love, which has a smooth jazz feel to it, and ends with her interpretation of Etta James’ signature song “At Last,” which is given an unexpected ’50s doo-wop treatment. For Leela, this adventurous and satisfying collection goes beyond the music.
From what I understand, Etta James was very outspoken and didn’t take no crap from anyone, and I’m just the same, she said. I can truly respect her for being that kind of woman in her day, especially in a male dominated business. I can only imagine how difficult that had to be at times for her because I know how difficult it can be at times for me now.
Something’s Got a Hold On Me
I Want to Ta-Ta You Baby
Nobody Loves You Like Me’
Old School Kind of Love