Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Lost Soul: Peggy Gaines

The seventh in a series of soul classics that have fallen through the floorboards

Readers, were we assembled in a room with Peggy Gaines listening to Sweet Way Of Living for the first time, we would hoist her victoriously upon our shoulders, carry her around the room triumphantly and proclaim her a deity.

This stunning song greets you with the sort of celebratory fanfare of horns that opened soul music’s other great proclamation of undying love, The Majestics’ (I Love Her So Much) It Hurts Me and a vocal purr that suggests Miss Gaines is most satisfied.

You can imagine Peggy Gaines on a hot summer’s morning, leaving her beau’s house and declaring her blissful devotion (“Every day, I walk along/And I’m feeling mighty proud/Telling everyone I meet/I’m shouting out loud”).

There’s a beautiful insouciance to Gaines’ delivery that lets you picture her sashaying down the street with a dip in her hip and a glide in her stride, casually shrugging “it seems I have a magic touch” because everything is just right and the ecstasy of love has made her fit to burst.

Just one listen to the guitar, a close cousin to Ann Sexton’s You’ve Been Gone Too Long, will tell you that Sweet Way Of Living was made in the South. The b-side, Just To Satisfy My Baby, is a mini-masterpiece in Southern Soul pacing and passion. If you like Sweet Way Of Living – and you will – then you should check out a compilation of Nashville’s Ref-O-Ree label, which has another Peggy Gaines song, some essential late Roscoe Shelton sides and in Freddie Waters’ Singing A New Song, the label’s closest companion to Sweet Way Of Living.

But it doesn’t contain Sweet Way Of Living. 90 seconds of the greatest pop music you could wish for and it hasn’t been reissued anywhere. Unbelieveable.

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