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Betty Harris

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BETTY HARRIS: THE TRUE SOUL QUEEN OF NEW ORLEANS

Outside of soul fans, or New Orleans aficionados, mentioning the name Betty Harris is likely only to draw blank stares. Yet in a seven year recording career that yielded 8 sides for Jubilee Records, 18 for Sansu and 2 for SSS, Betty Harris left a legacy of soul vocals that rival any of her contemporaries for complexity, imagination and pure soul.

After 1970, Harris left music (though I have heard rumors of at least one other 45). Stories about her post-Toussaint life see her acting as James Carr’s road manager (there’s a story in there to be sure), and driving a tractor-trailer. One can only imagine what kind of music she would have made had she not decided to retire. Fortunately, it’s possible to hear almost everything Betty Harris ever recorded on a single CD. Westside Records in the UK has compiled all of her Jubilee, Sansu and SSS International recordings on the CD ‘Betty Harris: Soul Perfection Plus’ (the title is a reference to ‘Soul Perfection’, the collection of Sansu sides released by Action in the UK in the late 60’s). The sound and the annotation are outstanding, and the opportunity to track the progress of an artist so talented yet so little known is invaluable. Many other Harris tracks appear on various comps, including the fantastic ‘New Orleans Funk’ and ‘Saturday Night Fish Fry’ collections from Soul Jazz in the UK.

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