Dionne Bennett – Sugar Hip Ya Ya

Dionne Bennett - Sugar Hip Ya Ya

Dionne Bennett

Sugar Hip Ya Ya
Hunnia Records

Review by John Taylor

Dionne Bennett has seen – and conquered — a lot of the world. And the British-West Indian singer-songwriter has been around the block enough to find her way around without having to ask for directions.

She’s toured Europe, appeared with the likes of Dr. John, Maceo Parker and Oasis, collaborated with folks like Rhys Ifans, and recorded with jazz pianist Jason Rebello and Grammy-winning saxophonist Tim Garland.

She was even one of the “Bluettes” in the Blue Brothers musical.

So if she wants to open her newest album with Etta James’ 1968 classic, “Tell Mama,” well, hey. We’d say she’s earned the right.

But that’s only the beginning of this all-over-the-map album.

“Sugar Hip Ya Ya,” recorded in Hungary with a tight group of local musicians that producer and performer Little G Weevil pulled together, rolls easily from R&B to funk, reggae to soul, and from gospel to rock ‘n’ roll.

Little G Weevil chips in with lead guitar and vocals, along with guitarist Laszlo Borsodi, bassist Attila Herr, drummer Lajos Gyenge and keyboardist Matyas Premecz. The Jambalaya Horns – with Tamas Sovari on trumpet and Zoltan Albert on sax — round out the sound.

From that first, crisp cut, the music is full, vivid and smooth. And Bennett’s vocal versatility has room to roam, slipping effortlessly from get-up-and-dance tracks like “Spy Me” and “Get It Right” to powerful anthems like “Let It Rain,” which features a moving sample of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “We Shall Overcome” speech.

Little G Weevil wrote or co-wrote eight of the original songs on the album, but Bennett defines them.

Her “Full Time Job” will ring especially true with any musician who’s endured well-intentioned friends and family members counseling against pursuing a career onstage. And Bennett’s impressive range comes into play on the modern torch ballad, “Don’t Fall for Love.”

So go ahead and “Tell Mama.” Dionne Bennett’s “Sugar Hip Ya Ya” is definitely going places.

Don’t get left behind.

Total Time: 46:26

Tell Mama / Sugar Hip Ya Ya / Spy Me / My Life / Full Time Job / Yes We Can Can / Let It Rain / Don’t Fall for Love / Get It Right / Get Style