Picks and Pans Review: Let's Roll

updated 05/19/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/19/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Etta James (Private)

Don't mess with Miss Etta. Fresh from last year's Grammy-nominated live recording, the 65-year-old matriarch of the blues (with her own newly unveiled star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame) emerges from the studio with another relentless outpouring of attitude and angst. Backed by the Roots Band, featuring sons Donto and Sametto, James early on proclaims, "The blues is my business, and business is good!" What an understatement. On a dozen songs about hard living, loving and the lessons they teach, James's coarse, sometimes throaty vocals turn a breakup into an act of self-respect on "A Change Is Gonna Do Me Good" and support rollicking irony on "Lie No Better," in which a cheating spouse is told, "If you can't lie no better, you might as well tell the truth."

BOTTOM LINE: Roll rocks

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