The return of Betty Harris to the studio in 2007 to record a new album is the most exciting news for this soul fan since Howard Tate’s rediscovery. Her new album Intuition is her first in thirty years–way too long for her.
Once a protege of the great blues singer Big Maybelle, Harris learned how to use her natural big voice from gospel singing in combination with Maybelle’s shouting blues style. The result was, quite simply, the most intense and fierce female soul singer in 1960’s New Orleans. Her biggest hit was the classic slow rendition of the country-soul classic Cry to Me (still the best version IMHO). That tune was recorded for the legendary record producer Bert Berns in 1963. However, she soon found herself recording for Allen Toussaint’s great Sansou label down in Louisiana. There she cut some fantastic numbers including her second big hit Nearer to You, Mean Man, Show It, and There’s a Break in the Road, which has gone on to become a funk club classic.
In fact, well-deserved fame is finally coming back to Harris with critical acclaim for Intuition after many years of raves for her past work by Northern Soul and Deep Soul fans of Great Britain. Once again, it’s the Brits that have to expose us to the domestic Soul Music talent we foolishly ignore.
This vid is her wild version of Ride Your Pony, a tune that was a hit for Lee Dorsey and recorded by The Meters, Georgie Fame and Gino Washington among others. Some music fans I’ve talked to disagree, but I think Betty’s version is by far the best I’ve heard. From the opening blaring horns, leading into Allen Toussaint’s frenzied piano playing, Harris commands the song with her booming voice. It’s clear if you listen, that she adds a salacious dimension to the song others can’t. You won’t be riding your pony only on the dance floor, baby!