When Rufus Thomas
passed away on December 15, 2001 at the age of 84, admirers could take some comfort in knowing that he had lived a long, productive life. Most of his major hits were recorded for Stax in the '60s and early '70s, but after Stax's collapse, Thomas
continued to record from time to time -- and he stayed in Memphis until the end. Although Thomas
was actually born in Mississippi, Memphis is where he spent much of his life and recorded hits like "Walking the Dog" and "Do the Funky Chicken." It's also where he provided the 11 tracks on Just Because I'm Leavin'
, which contains material that was recorded in 1990 and 1991 but went unreleased until April 2005. Thomas
makes no effort to appeal to the urban contemporary R&B/blues scene of the early '90s; "Miss Jane," "If There Were No Music" and other selections are straight-up, undiluted Memphis soul in the classic-'60s sense. Stylistically, there is very little difference between Just Because I'm Leavin'
and the material he recorded for Stax 25- and 30-years-earlier; that is true on Thomas
originals as well as an inspired remake of Merle Haggard
's "Today I Started Loving You Again" (which shows how well a country song can lend itself to an R&B makeover). Not everything on this CD is soul in the strict sense; Just Because I'm Leavin'
also contains some 12-bar blues performances, which only add to the album's Stax-like appeal -- although R&B was Stax's main focus, they also put out their share of electric blues. Just Because I'm Leavin'
falls short of essential; by the early '90s, Thomas
was past his prime. But even so, this an enjoyable, noteworthy disc that hardcore collectors will welcome.