Mr. Chuck Edwards
“Listen – Sweet Sweet Love MP3″
Here we are again, the work week just about half done, and I’m here in Jersey where it’s an unusually sultry evening. There’s a very warm breeze blowing, so much so that all I really want to do is crack a cold beer and sit out on the deck, happy that the mosquitoes have yet to begin their onslaught.
However…the keyboard was calling – as was the music – so I grabbed myself a glass of milk (how sad is that?) and a sugar free cookie (sadder yet….) and propped myself up in front of the laptop for a little word wrangling.
This has been a weird day. My work situation showed sudden signs of further evolution. I hesitate to use a loaded term like progress, on account of change and progress often occupying mutually exclusive positions. As a result, I find myself sneaking up on guarded optimism, while I am in turn stalked relentlessly by an uncomfortable, low-level dread. Things being what they are, I suspect that a large portion of the rest of the world feels pretty much the same way, so I can’t feel too badly about it. I’ll just keep on keeping my fingers crossed, and try to avoid the falling anvils and pianos* (both literal and figurative) of life.
In an effort to keep my head screwed on straight (and maybe yours too) I can think of no better offering to the cosmos than another dose of soul music.
This time out, I bring you one of the lesser known (but certainly not lesser) numbers by one of my old favorites, Mr. Downtown Soulville, aka Senor Bullfight, Mr. Chuck Edwards.
If you want the slightly longer, general lowdown on Edwards, may I suggest you take a small detour over to the Funky16Corners web zine, where I wrote an article on the man a few years ago (there are of course some nifty label scans as well).
The short form is, that any self respecting soulie knows and loves Edwards’s best known side, the aforementioned, and justly legendary ‘Downtown Soulville’. That particular record is simply one of the best bits of funky soul ever committed to wax, so powerful that no less a light than WFMU’s Mr. Finewine (an all around righteous dude with a record collection that makes me look like a rank amateur) adopted it as the theme to his long running show.
What Edwards had, that always strikes a chord with me, making my ears perk up and my feet start to move, was an unusual fusion of raw soul, with a soupcon of garagey rock’n’roll guitar (courtesy of Chuck himself) that took his records and boosted them to an entirely different level. This sound, along with Edwards’s soulful growl made for some very hot records.
Unfortunately, as was the story with so many journeyman artists of the classic soul era, Edwards recorded steadily for his own labels, managed to grab occasional national (and in the case of ‘Downtown Soulville’, international**) distribution, but never really broke through to the wider listening public in any meaningful way. Today, outside of soul collectors, and the folks around his original home base in Western Pennsylvania, Edwards is largely unknown.
That I try to get his name out there as often as I can is my small attempt to remedy that situation. His music is rarely, if ever reissued (at least not legitimately), and that is a shame.
Today’s selection is one of the last 45’s he recorded as a solo – before moving west and founding his family band the Edwards Generation – and definitely from one of the lesser known corners of his discography. This is no doubt due to the fact that ‘Sweet Sweet Love’, though an excellent record in its own right is by and large unlike most of the music he recorded in the 60’s. It sounds like it originated well below the Mason-Dixon Line, with a decided Memphis cum Muscle Shoals vibe running through it. Edwards’s vocal has a Pickett-esque edge to it that sets it apart from his Rene, Punch and Roulette sides. As far as I can tell it was the only 45 he recorded for Kapp records, and I suspect that the writing credit to one ‘Charles E. Banner’ is in fact an Edwards pseudonym.
As I said before, Edwards catalogue – which stretches from the mid-50’s into the 70’s (not counting later blues recordings) has yet to see a much deserved compilation. Perhaps there’s someone out there that can remedy that situation. Until that someone gets it together, let this most excellent record stand as what gourmets refer to as an “amuse bouche”.
*Symbolic also of watching too many Tex Avery cartoons and the like….
**It was issued as a 45 (and as part of a compilation LP) in 1969 on Dave Godin’s Soul City label