Sterling Harrison

South of the Snooty Fox (HackTone)

Sterling Harrison R&B Tom Waits

Sometimes the weight of an entire album rides on a single song. In the case of the late soul-singer Sterling Harrison's South of the Snooty Fox, that track is Tom Waits' heart-wrenching "The House Where Nobody Lives." Without it, the disc would be good but not great — a fine collection of vintage R&B numbers (like Howard Tate's "Ain't Nobody Home" and Brook Benton's "I'll Take Care of You") delivered with gritty gusto.

The veteran belter, who'd been performing since the '60s, passed away shortly after the album's completion in 2005. He originally didn't want to record "The House Where Nobody Lives"; in the end, he reinvents it, raising Snooty Fox from merely ordinary to breathtakingly amazing.

His take on "House" plunges so deep that it's instantly recognizable as country soul personified — it's right up there with James Carr's "Dark End of the Street" and Solomon Burke's "I Stayed Away Too Long." It's a shame that Harrison didn't get the opportunity to cut a whole album of songs this beautifully introspective. But with one shot, he went further than most manage during their entire career.

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