Every so often there comes a voice that sweeps you off your feet. The Bay Area’s Tia Carroll has such a voice and it rings out loud and proud on her new Little Village Foundation release, You Gotta Have It.
Combining blues, soul and a gospel feel, Carroll’s newest offering was produced by Christoffer “Kid” Andersen and Jim Pugh, with Executive Producer Noel Hayes, who has been listening to Carroll in the Bay Area for over twenty years. You Gotta Have It was recorded at Andersen’s Greaseland Studio.
Carroll is no newcomer to the scene. She has been performing steadily for decades, including stints with Jimmy McCracklin, Sugar Pie DeSanto, and E.C. Scott. She also made successful recordings with bands in Italy and Brazil. However, this is her first stateside studio recording of both original blues and soul as well as well as some very tasty covers.
The album kicks off with “Ain’t Nobody Worryin’,” a slinky, funk-drenched cover of the Anthony Hamilton tune. Background vocals are provided by the phenomenal Sons of Soul Revivers, while Charlie Hunter plays bass and guitar simultaneously with ridiculously wonderful results.
The first of three Carroll originals follows with “Even When I’m Not Alone.” Tia’s voice builds from a sultry whisper to a mighty testament, displaying her instrument to perfection. Her other two originals display her skill as a songwriter as well as performer. “Leaving Again,” has a 70s funk vibe and includes several under-used percussion instruments including the block, triangle, and the ever popular vibraslap, which is to soul what the cowbell is to rock. Andersen’s wah-wah guitar and Pugh’s Rhodes add nicely to the flavor. On “Move On,” Carroll brings in her Brazilian guitar playing friend Igor Prado who lays down a distinctive rock lead on a decidedly inspirational soul track.
Tia also employed a powerful horn section for some tracks including “Our Last Time,” a Pugh penned blues number that he had previously recorded with Robert Cray. “Never Let Me Go,” carries a nostalgic 50s vibe that just feels like home, while “Mama Told Me,” is pure golden age Chicago blues from the days when Etta James and Koko Taylor ruled the airways. Through them all, Carroll’s vocals are a beacon, from growls to soaring, crystal highs, that shine bright.
Andersen, also a talented songwriter, teamed up again with his wife Lisa to pen “Ready to Love Again,” a vibrant R&B romp that Carroll performs with the precision of a surgeon. Tia comes out full-tilt on the ZZ Hill classic, “I Need Someone,” and The Staple Singer’s “Why Am I Treated So Bad,” but my personal favorite track is her cover of Koko Taylor’s “Don’t Put Your Hands On Me.” Written by Rick Estrin for the incomparable Taylor, Tia Carroll does it justice to the nines.
This gathering of Little Village Foundation and Greaseland personnel combined with the swaggering, sassy, mighty vocals of Tia Carroll is an absolute gem. Whether you’re a fan of soul, R&B, contemporary or traditional blues, there are songs on the album for you. This breakout recording will have Carroll’s name on everyone’s lips. Believe me when I say, You Gotta Have It!