IRMA THOMAS-IN BETWEEN TEARS RECORD STORE DAY 2019.

Irma Thomas-In Between Tears-Record Store Day 2019.

Label: Reel Music.

There’s not many artists whose career spans six decades but Irma Thomas’ does. The Soul Queen of New Orleans  released her debut single (You Can Have My Husband But) Don’t Mess With My Man on the Ron label in 1960, and since then, has recorded for some of the best know soul labels, including Minit, Chess and Imperial. Irma Thomas was a contemporary of artists like Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick, but unlike her contemporaries, never found the mainstream success they enjoyed. Despite that, Irma Thomas has enjoyed a longevity that is the envy of many singers. 

Sadly, her longevity didn’t translate into commercial success, but Irma Thomas is a hugely respected artist who has released over a dozen albums and over thirty singles. One of these albums was Irma Thomas’ third album In Between Tears, released in 1973 on the Fungus record label. In Between Tears was recently rereleased by Reel Music for Record Store Day 2019. It’s a reminder of what was Irma Thomas’ comeback album.

In Between Tears was Irma Thomas’  first album in four, long years. After a hurricane wreaked havoc on her beloved New Orleans in 1969, she had to move Los Angeles. Once there, her musical career was put on hold, with Irma Thomas working in the retail sector. That was until 1973, when Irma Thomas  released the single She’ll Never Be Your Wife on the Fungus label. Her comeback was complete when she entered the studio with producer Swamp Dogg  to record In Between Tears.

For In Between Tears, Swamp Dogg wrote all but one of the tracks. He also put together a tight and talented band. The rhythm section included bassist Robert Popwell, drummer Squirm and guitarist Duane Alman and Jesse Carr. Swamp Dogg played piano, Paul Hornsby organ and The Swamp Dogg Band supplied the strings. In total, seven tracks were recorded. They became In Between Tears.

When In Between Tears was released in 1973, Irma Thomas’ comeback album wasn’t the  success that she had hoped. However, like so many albums that aren’t a commercial success on their release, they’re only appreciated years later. That was the case the In Between Tears.

Back in 1973, people were wondering why In Between Tears hadn’t been a bigger commercial success. Had Irma Thomas’ absence from the music industry affected her music, or was it the change in style and  sound on Between Tears? After all, Swamp Dogg has his unique production style,  one that wasn’t necessary suited to Irma Thomas.

After four years away from the recording studio, Irma Thomas had lost none of her enthusiasm, energy and talent. On In Between Tears she delivers each song with a mixture of emotions. One minute she’s heartbroken and despairing, the next, she’s feisty, full of defiance and bravado. During some songs, there’s a world-weary sound to her voice, as if she’s lived a dozen lives, when in reality, she was only thirty-two. This demonstrates one of Irma’s talents, the ability to bring the story behind the lyrics to life. When she does this, she becomes a masterful storyteller. Of the nine songs on the album Swamp Dogg, aka Jerry Williams Jr. wrote of cowrote eight of them. Not only that, but he produced the album as well. With a crack band behind her, the result was an album that deserved to do so much better. Unlike many albums, this album is long on quality and short on filler.

Sadly, In Between Tears wasn’t a commercial success. That’s no refection on the music  on In Between Tears. Maybe the partnership betweenThe Soul Queen of New Orleans and Swamp Dogg was doomed to failure? Swamp Dogg had his trademark production style which didn’t exactly fit with Irma Thomas’  elegant and sophisticated style. Despite this unlikely musical marriage, In Between Tears worked. It allowed Irma Thomas to step out of her comfort zone and demonstrate her versatility. As she did this, she was transformed into a master storyteller, one who sounded like she’d lived the lyrics a thousand times. Providing a dramatic backdrop was Swamp Dogg’s band. Together, they created In Between Tears, a true hidden gem in Irma Thomas’ back-catalogue.

Since its original release in 1973, In Between Tears has been rereleased several times,  by a variety of labels. The latest label to do this is Reel Music pm Record Store Day 2109. This is a welcome reissue, and one that gives music fans everywhere, the opportunity to discover In Between Tears, a cult classic from Irma Thomas’ The Soul Queen of New Orleans.

Irma Thomas-In Between Tears-Record Store Day 2019.

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