Beverly Guitar" Watkins"

Music Maker

Beverly Watkins is known as an Atlanta blues artist, but her latest CD, The Feelings of Beverly "Guitar" Watkins, is a genuine folk recording — a true reflection of an artist's experiences and observations — delivered in a native tongue.

Watkins' debut, Back in Business, earned a W.C. Handy Award nomination in 2000, but was constructed primarily by producer Mike Vernon, with Watkins overdubbing guitar and vocals. By contrast, Feelings features all original Watkins tunes, recorded live at the Alabama studio of drummer/producer Ardie Dean.

Watkins, who turns 65 this month, is a gracious woman, so when she says that Business "was Mike Vernon," it's with gratitude for what she learned from that recording experience. She clearly views Feelings as the first recording of her own work.

Feelings bears witness to Watkins' roots: She serves up no-nonsense soul and R&B balladry ("As I Was Walking [Down that Lonesome Highway]," "Just Make Believe"), funky blues ("Get Out on the Floor," "Late Bus Blues"), mellow horn-seasoned swing ("Sugar Baby Swing"), gospel ("Jesus Walked the Water") and even Calypso ("Melody Midnight Cruise," inspired by a musical cruise with Taj Mahal and others). Watkins has absorbed a broad range of influences, from Piano Red to Ray Charles to Jackie Wilson and beyond, and made them her own.

Whether she's singing about waiting for the bus or about Christian salvation, it's the plain truth of her life and you can't help but believe her.

Beverly Watkins plays Fat Matt's Rib Shack Fri., April 2. Call 404-607-1622 for ticket information.

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