O.B. Bryant's second coming

Influenced by classic soul and blues artists such as Al Green and Bobby "Blue" Bland, longtime Georgia resident O.B. Bryant isn't aiming for the top of the pop charts. But the sweet exhilaration of doing what he loves pervades every note of the 54-year-old singer's late-arriving debut, Where Did You Get That Thang. Released last year, the low budget disc, produced in a home basement, substitutes all instruments except guitar with keyboard parts, yet still throbs with the coiled tension, grits and grease soul of the best Stax sides. Considering this is Bryant's first recording, the singer sounds remarkably confident, relaxed and thoroughly steeped in the deep gospel and blues of the South. Which he is.

Currently residing in East Point, Bryant was born in Vienna, Ga., about 50 miles south of Macon, and started singing in church as a precocious 8-year-old. Deciding to get serious about his music in 1965, he moved to Atlanta and joined the Thriller group, followed by his own unit, the UFO Band, both well-known and respected R&B combos of the time. But Uncle Sam and the Vietnam war rudely intervened, and Bryant interrupted his career to spend time in the service. When he returned, the needs of raising a family took precedence over the unpredictable entertainment world, so the soulman reluctantly put his passion on hold and spent the next few decades working full time for the post office.

After retiring with benefits in 1998, Bryant finally had the financial freedom to return to his first love — singing scorching R&B. "Some of these songs I wrote eight or 10 years ago, maybe longer. I would jot ideas down and put them in storage because I wasn't doing anything." While he's not nudging B.B. King and Eric Clapton off the charts, O.B.'s modest, home-brewed CD has provided him with enough exposure to work blues festivals, mostly in Mississippi and Alabama, where the audiences "know the songs better than I do," he laughs. And while it's hardly a glamorous gig, Bryan recently completed a bi-weekly residency at the Red Lobster in Smyrna.

Bryant is returning to the studio this fall, with a bigger budget. Yet even without a backing group, major label or publicity machine, O.B. Bryant has the talent, soul and boundless enthusiasm of a man who's finally doing what he's wanted his entire life. It makes even his modest success a triumph.