Dear Damon Albarn,
I hope this letter finds you in good health. I know I’ve said some nasty things about your last record (Fatboy Slim? Sorry, I’ll be calm), and I apologize. I know you’re just trying new things since the big breakup, and I wish you all the best. This is especially true now that you have decided to have your label, Honest Jons, release some of the best hard-to-find Southern soul of the ’60s. Your third release of this kind, from the still-in-action Willie Hightower (let’s go see him in Alabama together!), is quite possibly the best of the bunch.
You could have coasted after releasing the solid Candi Staton compilation and the brilliant Bettye Swann compilation last year. But instead you chose to compile the tragically rare Capitol record by Hightower, along with his Fame singles, including a cover of Joe South’s “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” which is so fucking good it’s impossible not to curse when describing it. You’ve taken this third document of Southern soul and spread its gospel throughout the world. And I love you for it.
Why do you think it took so long for music like this to get the exposure it deserves? Why do think music like this isn’t being made any more? Certainly, people expect this much pain and joy from music. Certainly, no one expects to get the kind of emotional response from “Sk8ter Boi” that I get from “Because I Love You.” So what’s the deal?
I guess in the end it doesn’t matter, because we have this. We have tons of it, from Otis Redding and Sam Cooke (whom Hightower can impersonate uncannily) to Denise LaSalle and Esther Phillips. We have I’ve Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You and What’s Going On, so who cares about In the Zone and Rebirth? In the same way, I guess, that we have Parklife and The Great Escape, so we can ignore Kasabian and Keane. Just because music is new doesn’t mean it’s relevant.
Anyway, I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate what you are doing. It’s a shame everyone hasn’t bought these records, because if there were ever music to make people put down their guns and start loving each other and caring about humanity, this is it. Keep up the good work.