Ever since this humble blogger returned from the NAAFA Con, singer Kristie Agee’s Use What You Got
(Old King Records
) has been in regular rotation on the study boombox. The mid-sized singer made a memorable appearance (her second at a NAAFA Con, I'm told), singing some of Use
’s songs at NAAFA’s fashion show, but, of course, that singer-w./-backing-tracks performance could only suggest
the more full-bodied fun to be had on a recording that blends her voice more fully into a big band r-&-b environment. Bet that Kristie and her band (known as Big Potential) would really sound hot on a smoky club dance floor.
The bulk of Use
is devoted to Kristie’s take – abetted by husband hornman Roy – on classic risqué rhythms, many of which explicitly promote the glories of full-figured lovers. Bullmoose Jackson’s “Big Fat Mamas Are Back in Style” (a song also memorably covered by Buster Poindexter) is the model, though other treats like Howlin’ Wolf’s bluesy bit of self-promotion, “Built for Comfort,” are just as compelling. Agee has the right vocal instrument for this kind of material: strong & earthy & provocative. If she doesn’t quite hit the same levels of aching sexuality that a Dinah Washington brought to a track like album opener “Big Long Slidin’ Thing” (a tribute to a trombone player – what’d you think
it was about?), well, it’s not for want of trying. Mebbe if she spent more time away
from her own trombonist hubby?
Still, this is a great disc for lovers of the old-fashioned horn-based blues sound. Only duff track, to these ears, is a mercifully brief instrumental entitled “Roy’s Blow.” Elsewhere, Kristie and the boys introduced me to “Big Red Caboose” (a funky tribute to a bottom-heavy beauty striding down the street) and “Meat on Their Bones,” which celebrates small-town BHMs with just as much vim-&-vigor as the big fat mama songs. And to prove she’s more than just about plus-size celebration, Agee also folds two convincing renditions of “My Funny Valentine” and “When You Wish Upon A Star” into the mix for a sweet change of pace.
But, of course, the big fat draw remains Kristie’s kovers of them rollicking BFMama tracks. In a liner note to the Bullmoose Jackson song, the singer notes that she first discovered “Mamas” being used as the backing track on one of those dumb little fat-bashing sites that have been part of the Internet for as long as there’ve been online troglodytes with marginal html skills. Which only goes to show even the more bigoted strands of the web can occasionally – if inadvertently – yield some strong size-positive material if you keep your ears open . . .