How can someone go back to where they have never been? How can a ukulele playing folk singer accomplish searing blues and soul vocals with such sincere expression and emotion? These are just two of the mysteries surrounding Aireene Espiritu. Her release Back Where I Belong, reveals the answers, and much more.
Though Espiritu has been gigging around the Bay Area for decades, it was at a performance in Oakland (amongst 200 artists) that she caught the ear of Jim Pugh. Pugh is the director of Little Village Foundation, and a highly respected keyboardist with an impressive resume. The idea came to Pugh that since Espiritu is Filipino-American and has a tremendous voice, she would be perfect to cover the songs of iconic R&B songstress Sugar Pie DeSanto, (also Filipino-American) in a back to the future revelation.
Recorded at Greaseland Studios, and produced by Pugh and Kid Anderson, this is a spellbinding session capturing a singer at that precise space in time when all the conditions were perfect. They went back to the DeSanto catalog to cull seven songs, as “Going Back Where I Belong,” and “I Don’t Wanna Fuss,” in a superb revisit to the golden age of R&B. “The One Who Loves You,” though covered by DeSanto was a huge hit for both Mary Wells and The Marvelettes, in the 1960’s, and looms large in the annals of classic soul songs. “Witch for the Night,” is a blazing rocker complete with fancy guitar work and high flying organ, and they slide into the country flavored rumba “Can’t Let You Go,” with Maurice Tani doing a vocal duet with Espiritu. -By James Nadal