When I think about soul singing, I don't call to mind spindly supermodels given to melismatic overkill — I think about Solomon Burke.
Now in his sixties, Burke is a legend of the form; the biggest names in R&B history bow down before him. It's all the more admirable, then, that he's doing such compelling work at a point when most of his contemporaries are rehashing their hits on oldies tours. Picking up where 2003's stellar Don't Give Up on Me left off, Burke's new set, Make Do With What You Got (Shout! Factory/The One), provides further confirmation of his mastery. Perhaps even more noteworthy is how Burke boils each song to its emotional essence; it's not about proving what he can do with his voice but about where he can take us with his spirit.
Lending his incredibly supple pipes to material by Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Hank Williams, Dr. John, Robbie Robertson and others, Burke moves from one emotional peak to the next. The Don Was-produced Make Do is a solid effort from top to bottom, but the buttery "After All These Years" (co-written by Burke and pianist Eddie Towns), the churning workout "Let Somebody Love Me," Morrison's questing "At the Crossroads" and a magisterial take on the Jagger/Richards classic "I Got the Blues" are my favorites. The warblers crowding the current R&B charts would do well to study this disc closely.