Review Short Takes

Your chance to write big-time blues reviews. Only two rules: First, if you're connected to the band or artist, go to Shameless Promotion; Second, don't write a book -- keep it relatively short and simple, no 1,000+ word epics.

Oh .. and make it fun.

Review Short Takes

Postby blueswriter » Wed Aug 11, 2010 9:55 pm

Various Artists
M For Mississippi - A Road Trip Through The Birthplace Of The Blues
Broke & Hungry (2008) M4M002


11 tracks, 48 minutes. Highly recommended. This CD contains some downright amazing stuff which stems from Broke & Hungry Records head honcho Jeff Konkel's road trip and full documentation of the Delta Blues scene as it looks currently. For every discussion that arises these days in which someone tells you that "blues music is dead," you can easily pull this CD from your shelf and fight the good fight with more than enough evidence to prove otherwise. Over-produced this sure ain't - it's as jagged as a broken whiskey bottle looking for a fight and as dirty as a rusted old beer can found outside your favorite Mississippi juke house. Whether it's the insistent and driving groove of the Chester Burnett-styled The Wolves Are Howling from The Wesley Jefferson Blues Band, or the country breakdown approach of R.L. Boyce during Ain't It Alright, this is rough and tumble blues from a handful of wonderful musicians who thrive, as do their friends, on the fairly antiquated and barely updated music style of the forefathers. Just one listen to L.C. Ulmer's Rosalee could quickly change your next vacation plans so you can take in some real juke-joint blues. It's as hypnotic and buzzing as the sound of summertime cicadas and as rhythmic as a late night bounce in the bed of a broken-down pickup truck with your partner. It's also every bit as fun. Beautiful stuff! Stay tuned for a full-scale review of the M For Mississippi DVD.

Swimming In Turpentine
Yellow Dog (2009) YDR 1678


13 tracks, 58 minutes. Excellent. From the opening notes of Port Chicago Highway from Woodbrain, it’s not particularly clear whether these cats are actually Swimming In Turpentine or taking a page from Delta Blues great Tommy Johnson and drinking it. One thing is for certain though, the blend they’ve developed packs a wallop. There’s little doubt that the band’s roots are steeped in blues, as Joe McMurrian’s distorted guitar work and raspy vocals or David Lipkind’s rustling harmonica efforts demonstrate. However, one listen to their twist on Bukka White’s Shake ‘Em On Down quickly proves they aren’t out to mimic their influences. McMurrian’s songwriting is highly original and visual, and the production throughout gives the band a certain darkness which balances well with their four-piece lineup, rounded out by Jason Honl and Jimi Bott on bass and drums respectively. This isn’t down-home blues as much as it’s ethereal and very blues-influenced, but it’s sure well done - whatever the style is.

Various Artists
House Rockin’ & Blues Shoutin’
Blue Witch (2007) BWR 103


14 tracks, 58 minutes. Highly recommended. There’s a small yet inherent problem with House Rockin’ & Blues Shoutin’ and it’s that you only get a quick taste of some great blues artists in a ’live’ setting. This hour-long compilation, all recorded at Bob Corritore’s Rhythm Room in Phoenix, packs a wicked punch with The Mannish Boys, the late Floyd Dixon, Chief Schabuttie Guillame, Henry Gray and many more contributing one track each. For amplified harp fans, Kim Wilson, Billy Boy Arnold, Johnny Dyer and Bob Corritore all throw down with some powerful work, while guitarists Kid Ramos, Johnny Rapp, Frank Goldwasser, Chris James and others create sparks when they step front-and-center. Big Pete Pearson, Louisiana Red, Paul Oscher, Finis Tasby, Sonny Rhodes and Robert Lockwood Jr. also deliver. Everything present was recorded over a ten-year period between 1997 and 2006, and a few spins of this powerful set will certainly have you wondering just how more ‘live’ material of the same prime quality sits locked in a closet somewhere. Then again, it also provides plenty of hope that we’ll be seeing much more of it in the not-too-distant future. A tasty sampler that’s well-deserving of wide acclaim. Check out the Blue Witch website and support blues music!

© 2010 by Craig Ruskey
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