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Leela James: Let's Do It Again

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With thin-voiced divas dominating R&B charts last year, one wondered if there was any room for American belters of Southern soul. J. Hud and Jazmine Sullivan are promising, but both chose more mainstream directions, leaving soul's door wide open to an army of U.K. blue-eyed songstresses. Now, in struts Compton, Calif.'s Leela James to reclaim the respect of American soul with a live-recorded CD of able covers, from Phyllis Hyman to James Brown. Let's Do It Again isn't perfect, but it has moments of perfection — Womack and Womack's "Baby, I'm Scared of You" and Betty Wright's "Clean Up Woman," for starters. Improving considerably over James' prophetic, if disappointing debut A Change Is Gonna Come, this project finally captures the electricity of James' mesmerizing live shows. Ultimately, James proved insightful: A change has come to American soul, and her name is Leela James. 3 stars

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