When: Fri., Nov. 16, 8 p.m. 2012
This show brings together some of the most beloved figures in contemporary southern soul-blues. Willie Clayton delivers ballads and party anthems alike in a gritty-sweet croon filled with passion, tenderness, and a toughness tinged with self-aware irony; several of his songs have crossed over from the southern-soul circuit onto mainstream charts and radio playlists. Millie Jackson is best known for her jubilantly profane signifying: her "Phuck U Symphony," for instance, dedicated to bluenoses who found her material too raunchy, is a faux-classical piece, complete with orchestra and choir, whose libretto consists entirely of the words "fuck you." But she's also a gifted deep-soul stylist who can tear out your heart or melt it, often in the same song: her torrid readings of pop standards such as "Loving Arms" and Merle Haggard's "If We're Not Back in Love by Monday" are underrecognized R&B classics. Clarence Carter, with his blackstrap-molasses chuckle and rakish leer (which always seems to find its target, even though he's blind), plays the archetypal dirty old soul man to the hilt—if you only know one of his songs, it's probably "Strokin'," which is all about backseat, bedroom, and sofa sex. But he's also capable of wringing deep emotion from songs such as "Too Weak to Fight" and "Patches," a lachrymose but deftly crafted tale of his hardscrabble rural childhood. The real treat on the bill, though, may be Peggy Scott-Adams. She began her career in the late 60s, but modern listeners know her mostly because of "Bill," an out-of-nowhere 1997 hit that used sly irony and smoldering rage to call out a down-low brother—one of pop culture's first open acknowledgments of the issue. In recent years she's concentrated on gospel, but from what I saw in Memphis this August, her fire-and-velvet voice can still cut and soothe with equal power on secular material. The emcee for the evening is veteran dancer and comedian Mr. Lee, who's celebrating his 50th year in show business. —David Whiteis Millie Jackson headlines; Willie Clayton, Clarence Carter, and Peggy Scott-Adams open.