The soul queen of New Orleans releases a new album

Grammy award-winning blues singer Irma Thomas scored hits in the early ’60s, including “Time Is on My Side” (later covered by the Rolling Stones), but by the end of the decade, she was a single mother struggling to support four kids. Working at a department store, she recorded intermittently and then came back big in the ’70s, to become known as the soul queen of New Orleans.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed her house and nightclub, but just weeks later, she recorded After the Rain and snagged a Grammy. Just last month, she released Simply Grand. Girl howdy, it’s a great one featuring renowned pianists like Marcia Ball, Norah Jones and Dr. John. In fact, Dr. John played guitar on one of her first-ever recordings in 1959 (for “You Can Have My Husband [But Please Don’t Mess With My Man”]) and he’s back on this release, pounding the ivories for two songs.

Ever since I saw her energetic performance at a local club, I’ve been a fan of Marcia Ball’s swampy blues. Pairing her with a great singer like Thomas was genius and sure to garner repeated plays on my iPod.

Thomas is not one to stand still. She recently performed with Stevie Wonder at the 2008 New Orleans Jazz Festival and made an appearance on ABC’s Extreme Makeover. At the age of 61, she graduated from Delgado College. The school then opened the Irma Thomas Wise Women Center, of which she says, “We provide encouragement and I share my own struggles.”

Thomas is a force of nature but she’ll never let a little ol’ hurricane or anything else dampen her spirits.

I need to make this new album my own. How about you?