Ragan Whiteside's new EP, “Five Up Top,” is out now on the Randis Music label. Cowriting four new songs for the disc with her producers, influential soul-jazz keyboardist Bob Baldwin and Dennis Johnson (Celine Dion, Freddie Jackson, Melba Moore), the latter of whom handles drums and keyboards on the EP, Whiteside vowed to drop her fifth album this year and refused to be stopped by the novel coronavirus.
“This record, more than my other albums, was an exercise in sheer will, determination and drive. Juggling a family with two toddlers, live shows and all the business-related stuff you have to do as an independent artist is a challenge. Adding an album project to the mix took that challenge to another level. Just when we thought we had everything ‘under control,’ the pandemic hit and everything screeched to a halt. The focus shifted to safety and survival since nobody had a clear idea of the full impact of COVID-19,” said the Atlanta-based Whiteside.
“We knew we wanted to name this album ‘Five Up Top’ since it is my fifth studio album. However, with the time constraints, we realized that if we wanted to get this album out this year, we would have to get realistic and compromise on the length. We ended up making a five-song EP, which kept with the ‘five’ theme and took some of the pressure off.”
The conservatory-trained Whiteside recently rose to No. 3 on the Billboard chart and No. 1 on the MediaBase chart with “JJ’s Strut,” a jubilant joint inspired by her daughter’s moxie that opens the EP.
“Dennis conceived the song that we named for our daughter. She's a feisty little cutie who doesn't just walk - she struts!” said Whiteside who was accompanied on the cut by trumpeter Willie Bradley and guitarist Tony Bunch.
Written with a backyard barbecue in mind that Whiteside describes as filled with “sun, food, laughter, music and dancing with a plate in your hand,” “Jam It” went to No. 2 at Billboard and reigned in the No. 1 position at MediaBase for five weeks.
The EP’s lone reboot comes from an unexpected source: Little River Band. Whiteside climbed to No. 8 on the Billboard chart by soulfully reimagining the Australian rock band’s 1978 hit “Reminiscing,” giving it an R&B flair with lyrical flute play and dreamy vocals illuminating the chorus.
Be sure to check out this new five song EP.