If The Wrecking Crew were still around, Tommy Brenneck would be an official member. You've heard Tom playing on tracks by Amy Winehouse, Father John Misty, Beyoncé & Jay-Z, and Sharon Jones. He's also the leader of the Menahan Street Band and a member of The Budos Band. The resume is long. We're honored to say that Tom has produced two very special recordings, both of which are covers of Light in the Attic classics: Charles Bradley & The Menahan Street Band covering Sixto Rodriguez and Barbara Lynn covering The Supreme Jubilees. Both recordings will be featured on the forthcoming 'covers' compilation Light in the Attic & Friends (LITA 211). Tommy recently gave us a sneak peak of working with Texas soul legend Barbara Lynn on her gorgeous cover of "Well Understand" which you can listen to HERE.
Texas Soul Legend Barbara Lynn
by Tommy Brenneck
Like many phone calls I’ve received from my good friend Matt Sullivan over the years, “how would you like to work with Donnie & Joe Emerson? What do you think about going to Detroit and seeing if Rodriguez would consider recording new material?,” once again he really took me by surprise when I heard him say the name “Barbara Lynn” followed by “would you consider doing a song with her?.” Jaw on the floor...
Many times in my career Barbara Lynn and her music have had an impact on me. A few memorable ones if I may...
I’m guessing here, but around 2007 while performing at SXSW with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings I snuck off to see Barbara perform at the Continental Club, a small but legendary club on South Congress St. She was incredible. I was standing next to my friend Sean Soloman (guitarist of Mighty Imperials) and we both looked at each other like what the fuck is going on? This woman is absolutely crushing it. You could tell it was a pick up band but her rhythm guitar playing was so incredible, she had full control of that band. Of course there’s that incredible footage of her playing on a TV show in the 60’s, a striking young female playing left handed guitar, leading a big band and tearing through an instrumental version of Ray Charles’ “What I’d Say,” but seeing her in person was powerful.
Come to think of it, I was probably hip to her at that time because of a song she had called “I’m A Good Woman.” You couldn’t go to a funk party anywhere around the world in the early 2000’s and not hear that song.
And then there’s Here Is Barbara Lynn. Her Atlantic records debut album. I actually remember where I was when I found an original copy this. Charles and the Extraordinaires were in Atlanta making a stop at Reckless Records for Record Store Day and they let us in the back to dig through records, and sure enough there it was. There’s something really special about that record. You can tell it’s not a session band, it’s her band. A small band. It’s so incredibly soulful. Her songwriting, guitar playing and singing is just outrageous. It’s not a slick record at all. It’s pure soul. “This Is The Thanks I Get”, “Telephone Ring.” Unbelievable songs.
Fast forward many years later and Matt calls me with this proposition. How could I say no. I put together a band and hit the studio to record “We’ll Understand,” a song originally recorded by the Fresno-based gospel group The Supreme Jubilees. It was understood that Barbara couldn’t come to join us in the session and I’d have to send the song to her once recorded. I’ll never forget listening back to the track we had just cut and me and the musicians all looking at each other... I knew it right away. I was gonna have to go to Texas to record it with her. It was too special to just send to her. I had to see it through. Sure enough Matt arranged the session at Wire Road Studios in Houston and I had a magical afternoon recording with her. Her daughters and grand daughter ended up coming and with no preparation ended up singing background on the song. Three generations of Lynn on this one song.
Working with her was a dream. She couldn’t have been any sweeter. I tried to get her to play guitar on the track, even left room at the end of the song if she felt so inclined to solo, but she politely declined and blamed the arthritis. Her vocals though were effortless. We ran down the song a few times before she got on the mic. Sitting beside her as she worked it out was thrilling. Her phrasing is so deep and timeless. A type of singing you hardly hear these days. And then she proceeded to knock it out in one take. I asked her if she could sing one line from the first verse again and without hesitation she said roll it. Once she got past the line she needed to do she just kept singing so all of us in the control room looked at each other, eyes wide open, and kept it rolling. The take on the record is that full second take. What a legend.
The absolute sweetest thing that happened too that day was at the very end of the song when the guitar that’s on the record starts to open up, she started playing air guitar. I could’ve died. She asked who’s that playing guitar, and with a grin ear to ear I said “it’s me!”.
Barbara Lynn's recording of "We'll Understand" will be released on November 24th, as part of the 'covers' compilation Light in the Attic & Friends (LITA 211) featuring such artists as Ethan & Maya Hawke covering Willie Nelson, Charles Bradley & The Menahan Street Band interpreting Sixto Rodriguez, Iggy Pop & Zig Zags performing a Betty Davis gem, Angel Olsen paying homage to Karen Dalton, Mac DeMarco performing a song by Haruomi Hosono, and Swamp Dogg, John C. Reilly, Jenny Lewis & Tim Heidecker covering a country classic.