Patrice Muncell

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Named for onetime Metropolitan Opera star Patrice Muncell, Meridian, Mississippi–born vocalist Patrice Muncell Gathright has performed spirituals at the Vatican, sung Mozart at Carnegie Hall, contributed background vocals to a Cassandra Wilson album, and recorded a gospel CD. Now billed without her last name, she has been belting blues and soul songs around Jackson, Mississippi, with former Z.Z. Hill guitarist Vasti Jackson’s band for over a decade. She and Jackson also appeared together in the short 1999 student film Robert Johnson: 'Stop Breakin’ Down' and in the 2003 documentary 'Last of the Mississippi Juke Joints'.
Patrice Muncell
Moncell has one of the most powerful sets of pipes of any singer performing today, and she applies her rich contralto with earthshaking passion to much of the nicely varied material on Woman Enough, her long-overdue blues-and-soul debut CD.

Her treatment of It Hurts Me Too (Elmore James’ adaptation of Tampa Red’s When Things Go Wrong) is particularly inspired, with Moncell digging in with throaty growls to help drive home the lyrics and to match the intensity of producer Jackson’s blistering guitar and the slow-shuffling punch of his rhythm section. Other winning blues numbers on the disc are Willie Dixon’s Built for Comfort (a playful vocal duet with Steven Johnson of the Robert Johnson International Blues Revue), T-Bone Walker’s Stormy Monday (a showcase for Moncell’s sustains and imaginative scat-like use of word and syllable repetition), and a medley of Down Home Blues, Baby What You Want Me to Do, and Stoop Down Baby. Of the blues songs, only the Jackson-penned dance ditty Blues Booty is a disappointment, mainly because Moncell did it better with just piano accompaniment in the Robert Johnson film than with a rhythm section. Of the disc’s five non-blues tunes, Moncell’s reading of the soul ballad Second Chance, a minor 1971 hit for Z.Z. Hill that was written in part by Jerry (Swamp Dogg) Williams Jr. and Gary (U.S.) Bonds), is especially strong. Rounding out the program are It Ain’t Cheaper to Keep Him (her “answer” to Johnnie Taylor’s It’s Cheaper to Keep Her), Clarence Carter’s Strokin’ (complete with a long, salacious monologue), and two originals by Jackson, obviously aimed at the southern soul-blues market, on which he plays most of the instruments himself. One of them, the title track, has “hit” written all over it. ~~ by Living Blues: Lee Hildebrand.

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