|The amazingly powerful voice of Vaneese Thomas returns for her ninth album “Fight The Good Fight.” Beyond her vocal prowess the collection of a dozen new tracks showcases the songwriting skills of Thomas, who wrote/co-wrote the songs. Thomas co-produced the album with her life partner, Wayne Warnecke, at Peaceful Waters Music during the pandemic lockdown. The breadth of style and theme reflects Thomas’ career with a cross section of soul, gospel, blues, country, and Americana flavors with themes of romance, socio-political discourse, spirituality, celebration, and love.
Thomas invited many special guests to contribute to the effort including Scott Sharrard (Gregg Allman’s musical director), Bo Mitchell, Lisa Fischer, Tash Neal, along with the Memphis Horns – trumpeter Marc Franklin and saxophonist Kirk Smothers (Drive By Truckers) – and harmonica from Corrin Huddleston. Two veterans of Late-Night TV, bassist Will Lee from the Letterman show and drummer Shawn Pelton from SNL, and a slew of other players sat in for special sessions in Brooklyn, Nevada, and the famed Royal Studios in Memphis.
Warnecke and guitarist Al Orlo hold down the rhythm section for the majority of the songs beginning with four on the floor call to arms opener ‘Raise The Alarm.’ On the smoldering ‘Same Blood Same Bone,’ Thomas pays tribute to her hometown and to everyone that worked to give birth to Soul music. Lively banjo from Peter Calo lends authenticity to the downhome tale of a wayward girl ‘Rosalee,’ and Thomas leads the charge herself on driving piano for the determined groover ‘I’m Moving On,’ with Sharrard tossing in some of his vaunted slide guitar to spice up the mix. The spacious ballad ‘Time To Go Home,’ capitalizes on the lonesome sound of mandolin and accordion to lend emotional support to the pleading vocals from Thomas.
She examines the strength of her own heart on the slinky blues ‘When I’ve Had A Few,’ and chastises a former lover on the front-porch stomper ‘Bad Man.’ The tale of heartbreak and regret, ‘Blue,’ has subtle Latin touches that color its acoustic delivery. The detailed arrangement of the dynamic ‘’Til I See You Again,’ gives the track a Broadway style, while the fun loving ‘He’s A Winner,’ has Thomas joined by Muses from “Hercules” singing the praises of a hero. The title track ‘Fight The Good Fight,’ has a distinct Nashville flair highlighted by sweet fiddle from Katie Jacoby, finger picking from guitarist Paul Guzzone to accompany Thomas’ message of optimism and hope. Pelton lays down a muscular back beat, Sharrard lets his guitar soar and the full gospel choir roars as Thomas takes us to church for the finale ‘Lost In The Wilderness.’ Emotional performances like the ones found on “Fight The Good Fight,” come naturally to someone like Vaneese, where making great music is the family business.
Rick J Bowen
Born in Memphis Tennessee, Vaneese is the daughter of Rufus Thomas, whose legendary career as a musician and entertainer began in Vaudeville and spanned more than half a century in R&B recording and radio. Her older siblings are the hit recording artist “Memphis Queen” Carla Thomas and the highly respected keyboardist Marvell Thomas. Embracing this remarkable musical legacy, Vaneese carries forward the rich heritage of Memphis soul and R&B; music that has touched generations and crossed many divides. At the same time, she has combined all the influences of her background and experience – R&B, gospel, blues, and jazz – to cultivate a soul-stirring style that’s all her own.
Highly regarded within the music industry, Vaneese’s talents as a singer, songwriter, producer, and actor have made her a sought-after solo performer as well as a first-call vocalist for projects by other top-name artists. She has worked with the renowned recording producer Phil Ramone and has sung with an astonishing array of internationally known performers including Luciano Pavarotti, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Eric Clapton, and numerous others. Vaneese’s vocal career has taken her to concerts and festivals around the world. She has sung with the Baltimore and Colorado Symphonies in “Too Hot to Handel” under the baton of Marin Alsop and at:
- Several Pavarotti & Friends concerts in Modena, Italy,
- The Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland,
- The Michael Jackson & Friends concerts with Luther Vandross in Seoul, Korea, and Munich, Germany,
- And soul music festivals in Porretta, Narni, and Perugia, Italy.
Geffen Records released Vaneese’s first major recording in 1987. The self-titled album included the Top Ten R & B hit “Let’s Talk it Over.” In 1999 Vaneese used her own Peaceful Waters Music label to release “When My Back’s Against The Wall,” a gospel crossover hailed by Billboard Magazine as “a small label masterpiece that begs for attention from savvy majors.” A few years later came “A Woman’s Love” (2004), which combined R & B and silky, smooth-jazz vocals and in 2009 Vaneese released “Soul Sister Vol. One,” a collection of seminal soul classics. The CD, and the live show Vaneese has created from it, both pay tribute to some of the original soul sisters and honor the historical value of this irrepressible music. Since 2014 Vaneese has released four albums dedicated to her father and the music she was born into – “Blues For My Father,” (2014 Segue Records), “The Long Journey Home” (2016 Segue Records), “Down Yonder” (2019 Segue Records) and now “Fight The Good Fight” (2022 Blue Heart Records).
In addition to concerts and recordings, Vaneese has worked extensively in film and television. She was the voice of Grace the Bass on the PBS series “Shining Time Station” and Clio the Muse, Goddess of History, in Disney’s “Hercules.” She has sung on numerous film soundtracks including “Anastasia,” “Mighty Aphrodite” and “The First Wives Club.” TV appearances include “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” and “NBC’s Today.” Vaneese has also produced recordings, created vocal arrangements, and written songs for Patti Austin, Freddie Jackson, Bob James, Larry Coryell, Melba Moore, and Diana Ross, who scored a Top Ten hit in the United Kingdom with Vaneese’s “One Shining Moment.” She helped found the Swarthmore College Gospel Choir and continues to direct the Alumni Gospel Choir. Vaneese is a six-time Blues Music Award nominee for Soul Blues Female Artist and “Blues For My Father” garnered two BMA nominations for Best Soul Blues Album & Best New Artist Debut. Vaneese recently appeared as a featured guest at Black Opry concerts in Memphis & NYC.