Allen Toussaint: Soul Sister
Fingers and Toes
From Life, Love and Faith (WEA, 1972)
i originally posted this song almost exactly five years ago, albeit under very different circumstances. At the time, it was following the Katrina disaster and I was mentally and emotionally spent and I posted a few of Toussaint’s songs as both homage and salve.
Five years later and I was at the Groove Merchant this past weekend and Cool Chris was playing “Soul Sister” and I remembered how fucking great this song is (pardon mon français). It’s funny because I recently was re-listening to a lot of Erma Franklin (you’ll find out why soon enough) and the opening to “Soul Sister” instantly reminded me of her “Piece of My Heart,” which isn’t too surprising since both use similar approaches to the vaunted I IV V chord progression (which is also why “Soul Sister” bears a resemblance to “The Joker” and a gazillion other songs.
Regardless, the beat is catchy enough but what really sells this are Toussaint’s vocals, the male back-ups and the unexpected female singers who come in to sing, “thank you brother, thank you baby,” immediately followed by that the men, vigorously hollering back, “Hey you!” As a sequence, it’s hellaciously awesome.
I can’t claim that anything else on this album can top “Soul Sister” but if you ever get tired of just putting that tune on repeat (but really, how can you?) you can always flip over to “Fingers and Toes” for a far moodier ballad that’s pretty much the emotional antithesis of “Soul Sister’s” cheery, anything-can-happen vibe. This is a song at the end of love and damn if Toussaint doesn’t even make that sound compelling (a really intriguing hook on this song, btw. Sounds like a chorus written a couple thousand miles north of NOLA even if the rhythm is all Crescent City).