Carla Thomas: Heaven sent soul

The emcee at the Carla Thomas show at the Field of Heaven called the star performer the “queen of soul,” which sounds kind of blasphemous since Aretha is still alive. Carla is more commonly called the Queen of Memphis Soul, which is a pretty outstanding distinction by itself, and her backing band consisted of the cream of that city’s great R&B tradition, with members of the Hi Rhythm Section, the Stax players and a refugee from the Allman Brothers dynasty.

Carla’s younger sister, Veneese, came out first and did half a dozen blues numbers that took full advantage of the fire power on stage. She told stories about her sister and her legendary father, Rufus Thomas, one of the biggest stars on Stax in the ’60s. These tales, and the constant reminders that this was a Saturday night, gave the show a real old fashioned soul revue feeling, and by the time Carla came out the small audience was limbered up and the queen just had to sing her hits to get everyone dancing.

Of course, she did “B-A-B-Y,” and a lot of people knew the words, though I wondered if it was from the various more recent cover versions. Veneese came out for the last song, a cover of their father’s biggest hit, “Walking the Dog.” By then it had started raining in earnest, so that dog was going to be very wet.