Time was when the urban airwaves were fat with tunes from one-and-sometimes-two-hit wonders, who shared the waves and the charts with the big names. Artists like Dyke & the Blazers, Darrell Banks, and the Fantastic Johnny C. They recorded for small labels like Calla, Revilot, Double Shot, and Original Sound. Sometimes, if a record had a quick rise, a major-league player -- Atlantic, say -- might quickly ink a distribution deal with the indie (or maybe cover the hit with someone in their own big-time stable). Frequently, both label and artist faded as the airplay declined.
Detroit-born-and-bred Nathaniel Mayer is a survivor of those days. A breakout artist in his teens, he scored major national airplay in 1962 with the self-composed "Village of Love." Mayer's career soon tanked alongside that of the label he recorded for, the ironically named Fortune Records. His subsequent obscurity and rugged inner-city existence has at last been sidetracked by a deal with Fat Possum and the release of I Just Want to Be Held, a disc worthy of a Grammy nomination. It's a highly charged celebration of the glory days of indie soul music. A scorcher of a vocalist about midway between James Brown and O.V. Wright, Mayer attacks each track with present-tense punch and old-school authority. The vintage instrumental backup is infused, by way of guitar and keyboard, with more than a little garage-rock attitude.