Vaneese Thomas is an artist whose career has defied definition.  From her first recordings in the late 70s with Carolyn Mitchell (as Vaneese and Carolyn) to her years in New York as a session and jingle singer with top-of-the-line vocalists like Fonzi Thornton, Cindy Mizelle and Tawatha Agee, and her commercial breakthrough on Geffen Records with her 1987 Top 10 R&B hit, “Let’s Talk It Over,” Thomas has always followed her own muse. “Aren’t you glad that artists aren’t put in a box anymore? Some are…but there are others who like to color outside of the lines!”

In 2001, the youngest daughter of Stax Records’ Rufus Thomas began a new chapter in her solo career, digging into her Memphis roots, exploring the blues, soul and country that she grew up listening to and singing. In April, she unleashed Fight the Good Fight, a simmering, fiery collection of songs inspired by the times. “I feel freer now to express myself musically in any way that I want to because of this attitude of diversity and inclusion. I don’t feel constrained.”

If Fight the Good Fight feels particularly focused and inspired, there’s a reason.  “This was the pandemic record! We were all isolated and feeling blue. My musical director and guitarist, Al Orlo, and I wrote a lot of songs that became the album we didn’t intend to make! That lifted us out of the muck and mire. There was so much going on that was negative. The pandemic was what it is in terms of the science, but there was so much else politically that was a killer and the racial unrest. It went into making, in my opinion, the best songs I’ve ever written.”

One of those tunes, “Same Blood, Same Bone,” was partially inspired by the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, whom Vaneese supported as a backing vocalist for the last decade of Franklin’s life. “We had that Memphis earth connection. If you were a professional musician, singer, conductor, she was very much in your corner. She never failed to introduce the background singers—and not everyone does that! She would always say to the audience, ‘And Vaneese is an artist in her own right.’ It gives me goosebumps to think about that because it was so respectful.” 

Thomas finds herself in a contingency of Black artists, like Miko Marks and Valerie June, making space for themselves in the Americana genre, a field that is making strides to showcase more than just country and bluegrass music as original American music. “I’ve always loved a wide variety of music and I think it made me a better musician and certainly a better writer. For instance, the times dictated where Geffen put me [in the eighties] and I think that’s still happening with African American artists. As open as people say they are, Black people in Americana and country, you know…. I see the door opening, but it’s not very wide.” 

Fight the Good Fight was released on the woman-owned Blue Heart Records, her first partnership with a label since her deal with Geffen Records in the eighties. “I’ve been independent all of these years, but I thought it was really important to support women in the industry.” The album has received critical acclaim from notable publications like Blues Blast  and shows no signs of slowing down. Thomas plans on hitting the festival circuit in 2023 and introducing Fight the Good Fight audiences internationally.

To keep up with Vaneese’s tour schedule, go to