Coming Back to You
“Things happen for a reason,” Melinda Doolittle confides on her 2009 debut album Coming Back to You, and indeed it seems that this talented singer’s third-place finish on American Idol’s sixth season turned out to be a blessing. Away from the limelight, Doolittle drew upon her years as a session vocalist to create a retro-soul album loaded with taste, style, and feeling. Producer Mike Mangini (of Joss Stone renown) provides vintage settings for these tracks, aided considerably by Tom “Bones” Malone’s fat ‘n’ snappy horns. But it’s Doolittle who deserves the most praise for her poised yet fervent performances, as well as for her willingness to tackle everything from Robert Johnson blues tunes (“Dust My Broom,” “Walkin’ Blues”) to hits from the Johnny Mathis songbook (“The Best of Everything”). Her mixture of gospel fire and supper club cool recalls Gladys Knight in her heyday, especially on numbers like “If I’m Not in Love” and “I Will Be.” Urged on by thick organ chords and swooning strings, she struts through Memphis-style R&B numbers like “Fundamental Thing” and “Wonderful” with authority. Doolittle may have waited a while for her moment, but Coming Back to You finds her arriving right on time.