After more than 40 years singing the blues, Etta James has a way of bending a song to her will. James makes almost all the rock and blues covers on "Matriarch of the Blues" distinctly her own. On the opener, James turns Dylan's Christian-era single "Gotta Serve Somebody" into a saucy bit of signifying, with each exhortation punctuated by some brassy horns.
Her backing band is nimble and funky, accenting James' powerful growls with snaky bass lines on Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness." And James proves she can still get in a groove with bouncing versions of John Fogerty's "Born on the Bayou" and the blues staple "Hound Dog." Only her cover of the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" seems awkward.