Soul Suga & Diane Durrett is Atlanta dynamo Diane Durrett’s 2015 release. Diane has played with some big names, and is on a first name basis with Sting. Despite her success, she continues to produce probing music that leaves no stone unturned, with songwriting that shimmers with the brilliance and logic of a carpenter who can work without plans, a baker who can cook without a recipe, a swallow that can fly partway around the globe with no map (and no Siri). Today I listened to Soul Suga & Diane Durrett, and allowed the myriad textures of her voice to bring me high, take me low, and raise me back up again.
The record begins with “Show Up Sexy” and all of a sudden, there is nothing in the world but that big voice and the music, thick with bass and dripping with soul, like a barbecue sandwich. The sound is all-consuming, as Diane sings of good first impressions. Don’t count on love, she sings, purring out the final lines of Show up sexy in a way that makes me wonder about her boa collection. “Butters in the Skillet” blasts with soul-shined horns and jaunty guitar. Diane spins a fantastic food metaphor that develops like the perfect sauce, thick and sweet, with just enough bite to keep your taste buds engaged. When a woman wants love, you better get with it. Don’t walk away when the butter’s in the skillet, she sings. Wise words, emphasized by big brass and playful guitar.
Blessed keys usher in “All Is Well,” a song of filial devotion and the memory immortal. I know angels fly, but where do they sleep? asks Diane, simultaneously searching for solace and providing that very thing. Warm guitar and vocals hit every note with heavenly perfection and heartfelt musicality in that beautiful intersection between Art and the infallible human Soul. “All Is Well” is a song for when the sun has gone down and the silence weighs heavy on your heart. It is an empathic recognition of the pain of loss and a steady reassurance of the worth of all that stuff woven around the holes the augurs of misfortune have bored into your heart
The band takes their own advice and shows up sexy in “Be Somebody’s Angel,” with a tap tap tap taptap tap tap tap and smooth sax that soars like an airplane mobile in an uninhibited imagination. Diane’s voice flows with wisdom and love, as she sings of doing good for other people.
A song with the title “Push the Push Back” deserves a good dose of funk. On the track, the band delivers percussion layered like a massage from an octopus, flitting flute so sweet it feels like a dream, and bass that made me glad I was sitting down. Diane sings of reclaiming the power that was robbed of you by society and systemic inequality, relating to the many persevering peoples who hear the echoes of the disparaging words of the true ne’er-do-wells in their heads threatening to drown out the song of their own fabulous dreams. She sings optimistically, Lip service with no open doors; respect was like glitter on the floor. But now I seen just how the world can change… I, too, believe that the world can – and does – change. This song is proof and prod.
From the very first beat, like the stomp of the soul of a platform sole, “Let Go & Let Groove” is a song engineered for human movement, whatever that may look like. The song has the boing-boing of disco lights, with a soaring vibe powered by keyboard and Diane’s voice, which shares her million secrets, one by one. Some songs seem more apt to trigger a gustatory synesthesia in listeners; this track is something with just the right amount of sweetness. “Sassy Larue” puts the percussion front and center, accompanied by celebratory horns as Diane sings the tale of a performer named Sassy. The song is hot like jambalaya but light like beignets. Layered in rhythm and lyrically painting a picture of a woman we could all learn from. “Woohoo” is piano-driven like a frontier brothel. It swings, pops, and fizzes as Diane chronicles a typical week before the band breaks it down with a bluesy solo on strings. This is the sort of song that you might hear walking into your favorite creole joint at 9pm on a weeknight. “Woohoo” is entertainment for real folks who know how let loose and surrender to a solid groove.
Diane’s voice fills in all the empty spaces in “I Know Your Nothings,” like briny water slowing filling in the crevices of metamorphic rock as it meets a rising tide. She sings about knowing someone so well that words have become an auxiliary form of communication. The song is brimming with love and patience. It is clear that Diane has a heart of gold. The penultimate song of Soul Suga & Diane Durrett is “Bright Side,” a blues tune jacked up with a double shot of soul. Diane sings with a patient insistence, and enough reason to make you sit up straight and listen, with lines like, you ain’t gotta hide your eyes, ‘cause ain’t nobody gone blind looking at the bright side. She invites the listener to consider her message that anything is worth pursuing, as long as love is the driving force.
The last song on the album holds an unexpected power. Diane’s rendition of “Let It Be” made me melt to the point where my barista was shooting concerned looks my way. When the song got big, I got chills. Melted and chilled at once – that is really something. The homage to the Beatles included saxophone that could make a blind man see and inspire life in the follicles of a woman struck by alopecia. Diane delivers the vocals with a poignancy that can be difficult to produce in such a well-known song. The band did it justice in a way few – if any – others could.
Soul Suga & Diane Durrett is one of those albums that takes the listener on a journey into all the corners of life, be they dark, properly-lit, sequined, feathered, painful but necessary, elegant, or mouth-watering. The range, both in vocal ability and songwriting is impressive but Diane is not one of those performers who throws her talent in the listener’s face like a banana cream pie, forcing them to notice, no; Diane Durrett is a musician for the everyman, everywoman, and everyone in between. She uses her talents to entertain, uplift, and to have a little fun.
Diane has a show on Friday at Eddie’s Attic that is bound to be spectacular. Put on your dancing shoes and go. Listen to Soul Suga & Diane Durrett, and add something sweet to your life.