09 November 2017


Facebook // Bandcamp

I'm so digging the new 
album by UK's Crosscut Sores! Comprised of Tim and Scarlett, ex-members of the beloved Jooks of Kent, Crosscut Sores bring the same fkd up punkass garage blues as the Jooks, now with more thick greasy sludge and homemade ratrod distortion slugged in the back of the head with blasts of Stoogian sax and slurried leaks of piano. If anything can blast the winter off your sorry hide and roll your bones into summer it's this 15 tracks of diamond sharp imperial dirt. Get it!

15 September 2017

MUDLOW :: Crackling - EP - 2017

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The sky's ablaze over Brighton. Heat lightening, knocking the city aglow. A Morphine hum fills the cracks in the sidewalk. The fox at Palace Pier is prowling low, now slipping through fence posts and backyards howling...hearing the music
...which way is home? 

Brighton, England's Mudlow have a new ep out called Crackling. The last in a series of three EPs and following the Letter To Louise and Minnesota EPs.

I've really dug these collections. They're the perfect length, because Mudlow songs tend to be somewhat cinematic, in depth, vibe, and sonics. Just four songs. Three musicians. You have plenty of time to invest in them at that length. To really listen. Which means there's no room for filler. I'd be happy if they kept on doing EPs. In fact I'd dig it if more bands went this route. 

Who has time for seventy-five minutes of music? Do four songs, upload 'em everywhere. Put them out on a thick ten-inch record. A souvenir. That's what people want. A tangible memory of the affair. But I digress about this. Again.


Here's the spiel:

is a set of four new Mudlow scenes or vignettes as song. 
I say it every time, Mudlow makes soundtracks waiting for a movie. But here's the thing about this band: They're not a casual listen. I think you kinda gotta get proper old school and actually sit down and listen to the band thru speakers, not ear buds (though that's fine, too) I think you gotta spend some time with them. A glass of whiskey wouldn't hurt (unless it does) and just get lost.

On Crackling, you will take a trip to Mudlow Country. Mudlow consistently do their Mudlow thing. Much like MorphineEcho & The Bunnymen or Richard Hawley or Waits do theirs. I'm not suggesting Mudlow sound like either...and yet... but rather they are their own thing. They are in the alt-rock-blues-country whatever world, but not of it. This isn't some brit-based Americana wanna-be, either. I may claim Mudlow are their own genre, they're their own thing, yet they are deeply familiar...U.S blues-based rockishness, but with a U.K. pulp novel noir vibe...not quite country, blues, jazz, rock, yet all of these. At once. When it's raining. Downtown. Gritty, rural, yet elegant. Especially when you include their whole catalog, the early work with tough and sometimes haunted Morphine-like saxophone and horn sections. 

Mudlow is a terrific (in the true sense of the word) and unique band and they have done their best work here. It's a distillation of the Mudlow sound, poured four fingers deep over three ice cubes on 2017's Crackling.

Tobias Mudlow sings like a cracked bell, like a cantor, like a morning call to drink. His guitar soars and explores, swingin' like a funky, bluesy Willie Nelson, with jazz-like chord choices that spiral, kick, and lean backwards, way back, back into time...Tobias lets loose a howlin' whisper...stopping time...taking you to a noir elsewhere, a behatted slanted rain swept sidewalk in shimmering black and white, the golden road stripes glowing in the nickel-plated neon moonlight outside a James Lee Burke southern Louisiana swamp bar, some place you ought'n not be.

Let's talk about Mudlow's stylish bassist/ engineer/ producer Paul Pascoe. I can't imagine anyone else recording this band. He's recorded them from the start with Welcome To Mudlow Country to the new Crackling. Pascoe's recordings have always been very tasteful, allowing everything to breath, and giving the band the noir filmic sound it's big salacious heart desires. No instrument overpowers the other. Each is just as important as the other. Like a fist. Like prayer hands. Like the tabletop knife game. 

Drummer Matt Latcham is both the knife and the fingers in this equation, stabbing, swinging, but keeping a hand on the table. They're a band that has played together so long they finish each other's musical sentences, each note placed where it should be...on the spot.

The low down::--->

1. Crackling - Car wheels on a rotten paved and gravel road turn with a screech of tire on asphalt headed to anywhere but here. Storm clouds forming, windows down...night is coming on.

2. Bad Hand - A classic english blues, but you wouldn't know it. #Swingit!

3. Caz - Harrowing blues.

4. Red Ribbon - Classic old timey story of trouble, po-lice, and colored lights.

Lyrics for each song on Crackling, provided by Tobias Mudlow, are below:

Crackling: You said you were going to leave, you never got that far, somewhone's going to pay for the damage to my car. When you quit your crying , fetch your things from the yard, that's a heavy horizon, it's a gathering of clouds. You could take another step a little closer to the fire. The skylines alive, with javelins of light, like filaments under glass as they crackle and die, There's clean sheets on the bed, I'll sleep down the hall, some money on the night stand, you could leave after the storm. Or you could take another step a little closer to the fire.

Bad Hand: No warm welcome waiting when your women gets home,X2. Just another old mare, slipping through the fence post, just another old mare. She can't stand me no more. You ought to not let her ride another mans mule,X2. She'll leave you sad and lonely, like a hair lip fool, leave you sad and low. She can't stand me no more. My reason for breathing is leaving on this evenings train,X2. She took off with my best friend, now I see my kids on the weekends, she took off with my best friend. She can't stand me no more. I wound up in an alley on a pallet in the pouring rain,X2. Curled up like a bill fold, I laid my bad hand down, curled up like a bill fold. She can't stand me no more.

Caz: Your momma's calling you Caroline, you been out till 3am, you got boys in the back of your daddy's car, your gonna wake the dog in your back yard. Caroline where the hell have you
Been? Long blond hair and an overcoat, drinking wine and getting loaded, they say some swallows never land? Pop the cap throw back your head. Caroline where the hell have you been? Poor old absent minded Si, they shaved his head when he lost his mind, like the day old J.P. Jumped the river, he got high too fast and fell to quickly. Caroline where the hell have you been???

Red Ribbon: I dropped a little red ribbon down by the roadside, I let diesel soak up in the sand, an old fella over by the gas pump, with a loaded forty five, nickel and pearl grip curled up in his hand, stone cold and a straight back in the sunshine, I feel like the whole world turned numb, my belly sticking to my shirt tails, a cold sweat on my brow, I got a little taste of copper on my tongue. God damn you God Damn why you got to do things that way? I got up this morning , so much trouble now I should have just stayed where I lay. Now I can see the red lights on the hill top, I can see the blue lights on the ridge, somebody must have heard the gunshot, they phoned the police, I guess they told them what I did, Can you hear them banging on my front door, now they're running around the back, somebody's blowing on the bullhorn, telling me to get down, on my knees hands on my head. God damn God damn why you got to do things that way, I woke up this morning, so much trouble now, I think I'll just stay where I lay.....

Here's a special NSK Remix of the track Crackling, along with a remixed instrumental version. Finally, the music of Mudlow has been orchestraed, while keeping and deeping their Mudlowness. They are amazing, powerful, beautiful pieces.

12 May 2017

CHiCKEN SNAKE :: Tombstone N Bones

I see a dozen spirits in this photo.

BUY // Label // FB // 

Chicken Snake stands tall in the collective shadow of bands like The Gun Club, The Cramps, Handsome Family, CCRCap'n Beefheart, Stooges, X...and the ghosts of the early-mid Rolling Stones, too, for that matter.

They're bands that excavate and reimagine American blues and country music into their own primeval landscape, their own often base yet book-smart, shadowy, cinematic, symbolized, and often haunting world-view of rocking. 
Chicken Snake dance with that long, dark southern shadow through a Sticky Fingered New York City swamp at vesper, doing a bluesy, Velvetsy, graveyard boogie.

From Bristol to Detroit, New York to Mississippi, they're a band that conveys a definite sense of place, and you can't help but know where they're coming from, and where they're residing. I hear music that's deeply, naturally southern...gothic...but this is not some Qute retro hokem jingle-jangle homage, but rather, it's a dark and low down music with myth and mystery, folk-life literacy, and back road country cautions.


isten, in the vale of the nightthe new moon rising over the hill, dogs begin to howl. You up and take off running down a tenebrous trail thick with cedar knees to trip on, and Spanish moss to get tangled up in as you hustle to the sliver-mooned late dark of a gravel road where, in the distance shining hard, you see the lights of a hotly lit dog-trot house, and you stop...breathing hard...to listen...at a guitar growl and a voice moaning, "Tombstone head and a graveyard mind..."

The night is dark and the sky is blue as Chicken Snake hitches Hasil Adkins' rattling commodity country trailer to the eternal night boogie of John Lee Hooker's '67 Coupe De Ville. They top it off with Keith n' Ronnie's Funkycountrybluesstomp Slash n' Gas, then pull that lowboy out into the drone of a north Mississippi, west Louisiana, Alabama sunset. Chooglin. 
In the rearview, you can just make out Buddy & Julie Miller playing cards with Lux and Ivy in a TV-lit kitchenette at the No-Tell Motel, lovingly warmed by The Fire Of Love...then Iggy and Alan Vega walk in with a stack of southern B-Movies and a bottle of lightning... 

Jerry Teel is straight out of Andalusia, south Alabama, between Enterprise and Opp, north of the gulf, north of Niceville. Pauline Teel hails from Orange, Texas, a small town on the Tx/La border. The Teel's met Josh, a Pennsylvanian, and Jessica, a Virginian, in NYC after Katrina. Josh, worked at a record store near Jerry and Pauline's place, and both couples it turned out were New Orleans refugees, though they didn't know each other in the Crescent City.

I asked Josh Lee Hooker about his musical connection with legendary punk country blues guitar maestro Jerry Teel, (formerly of The Chrome Cranks, Knoxville Girls, Boss HogHoneymoon Killers, among others) and he tells me,

I think Jerry and I have a rare shared affinity for our specific conception of music. I mean that we each created (as any passionate listener does) our own idiosyncratic notions of what makes music good, what things have meaning and what don't—and then it turned out that those independent, idiosyncratic notions happened to be eerily similar. So, it's very easy for me to play with Jerry, because we have the perspective without having to discuss anything. Of course, it's also my great privilege to play with him, whose work I've known since the early 90s."

Guitarist Hooker (no relation beyond spiritual) is a perfect foil for guitarist Teel, and the two men work as a team, like gandy dancers, like knife-fighters, like Glimmer Twins, while minimalist on-point drummer Jessica-Melain, elegant on snare and floor tom, keeps the primeval hunch from falling off the bone. Singer Pauline Teel is a powerful and wise presence, teaming with Jerry on vocals or singing solo, walking like Ivy, like a dust devil, like a Fire Spirit...countering Jerry's rusty, country plaint as punk poet Loretta to his Howlin' Conway.

Tombstone and Bones is a hard, soulful, bluesed-out, country-infected rock and roll album, and that represents so well with the first track, the low country evol soul duet of Muddy Water Mystery with it's slow, drawling refrain,

"I don't want to get on your bad side, 

don't know what kind of mood your in"  

It's the sound of menace, of a darker shade of night, a faster flickering candle, the pages of a book turning on their own, or a car coasting down hill on a on a moonless night, on a graveled country road, and going no-brakes 'round the corner... 

Up next, the rockin' Satisfaction of Baby Stop is followed by a deliciously lowdown Loretta V. Conway fight song called Walkin' Blues which is followed by my current fave track Donna Lynn.

NowDonna Lynn, in a perfect world, would be a monster hit single, with its insanely evil Bo-Chuck-Keith-Stooges guitar paroxysms, with its one-string solo fury....drummer Jessica is a simple yet efficient machine, as Teel and Hooker throw knives and hurl bombs of beautiful guitar savagery like we sure as hell don't hear enough of these days.

Guitarist Josh Lee Hooker tells me, 

"The Donna Lynn guitar stuff is my attempt (after my understanding of Cale-era Velvet Underground) to create tension and momentum, principally through "wrong" notes, and notes that start off "right" but then are bent and pulled into something more atonal. 
Jerry and Pauline have had the song Donna Lynn since the very beginning of the band, back in '09 maybe. We played it a few times during rehearsals for the 1st record, but never really came up with a good version. Only recently, with the Velvets/Alan Vega thing we do now, did it actually sound right."

Black Crow Talkin' Blues is a rockin' old-timey natural world gospel song, but Hot + Cold is a Crampsy pompatus of love, breakin' it down, layin' it out.

The candy-silver metal-flake holler of Black Pony, with it's mocking, ascending guitar line, Louisiana campfire nightmare vocals, and trottin' dog drum beat, is a dream I don't want to have, but I don't mind to visit from here. Rich Man Blues could be a 'Stones out take, or better yet a Ron Wood outtake.

Lay It Down
is evocative of a late summer heat spell- hot, dirty, and threatening, like a cross between Bo Diddley and a Saturday night fight. 

Tombstone and Bones ends the set with haunting slide work, and some gorgeous harmonica set to a woozy gospel blues lamentation, "It's too late, too late, too late, too late, lock up your door, shut up your gate, their ain't nothin' left, but a tombstone and bones...

It's a haunting, primitive sound, Chicken Snake's. 
A raw, unpretentious old-timey/ swampy/ stonesy, creeptastic, Super Primordial Mejores éxitos de Rock sound tempered in North Mississippi hill country trance and drone blues...a driving, primal, dirty, citified country blues and boogie that sounds as fresh and dangerous today as it would have eighty years ago. One of my favorite albums of the year. I highly recommend it.

20 February 2017

HARVEY MANDEL - Snake Pit (2016)


The new Harvey Mandel album - Snake Pit, on Tompkins Square Records is dynamite. Featuring six new songs (and a couple of old ones) Snake Pit is Harvey Mandel's fifteenth album and his first to be widely distributed in twenty years.

If you've heard Mr. Mandel's guitar work with Canned Heat you'll have an idea of his sound. Blues-infected and dirty...physical...muscular... with a strong bottom end, but it's also often ornate, elegant, and heady. 

He's a thoughtful player, who can play a barrage of notes if needed but might just choose to kill you with a single-note solo instead. He's no show-off, rather, like all greats, he does his thing and hopes that you catch up to it.

Mandel can be slyly futuristic, and at the same time primitive. At times recalling the work of Trower, Hendrix, Page, Nelson, Carlos, etc...the usual gang...yet he remains wholly himself, and like Willy and the other gentlemen Mandel isn't afraid to take chances with jazz, funk, blues phrasings, and like Santana (or McLaughlin) he soars as he solos straight through your soul. Sustain set to Eternity, baby. 

Deeply southern funky, 
hard diving west coast blues, 
upholstered in Detroit, 
Mandel's guitar like a Cadillac, 

Raised in Chicago, Mandel made a name for himself in San Francisco in the late sixties, jamming with the likes of the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, later he went on to join John Mayall's band, and later found The Pure Food and Drug Act.

Harvey "The Snake" Mandel's third gig with Canned Heat was at Woodstock. His first was at Fillmore West when Canned Heat's guitarist quit. Mike Bloomfield played one set, Mandel the other.

You might have heard him on two songs on the Rolling Stones 1975 album, Black and Blue. He auditioned to be replacement for Mick Taylor, but that gig went to Ronnie Wood, which only makes sense. Snake Pit is the culmination of all that. It's an impressive career, that was nearly severely shortened by cancer. But #FuckCancer. Harvey Mandel's back with Snake Pit.

In reading about Mandel, the most common descriptor I came across was searing. That's perfectly accurate, but it's also very personal music, heavy, flying, dancing, crawling, feeling, leading, caressing, hammering music... metaljazzbluesrockfunksoulsomethingorothermusic. Whatever it is, it's alive, and it is powerful.

I don't know what his current health status is. I believe he's on the mend, but I do know he's had some serious ugliness, health wise, and I read had to pawn his guitars and sell his publishing to pay for healthcare.

We both know you haven't heard a good, serious, electric, virtuosically dirty guitar album in ages.
Fix that.

Snake Pit is Harvey Mandel's blues. His music should be heard by you. He's not like everyone else. Check him out, then give him your money. Thank-You!

03 February 2017

ROBERT FiNLEY - Age Don't Mean A Thing

Facebook // Big  Legal Mess Records

And it don't. Age. Mean a thing. But then again, you get to a certain vintage, a grown-up age, and you think, on the inside, that you're twenty-seven, or thirty-three, or forty...but really...you're not. You're not even close. And it used to be that you could get away with it...but then your looks start to betray you, and your body forsakes you, and there you stand. Jilted. Old.

As Junior Kimbrough sang you, "Done Got Old." Grown up things matter now. When you listen to music you want to hear about grown people's problems. The grown-ass blues. Sung with a grown-folks soul, by someone who has been there and can maybe tell you what it's all about.

Experience. That's what 62-year-old Robert Finley brings to the game. He's qualified. He's bonafide. He'll satisfy. He's got grownassity. He goes to work. He gets the job done. He plays music for grown folks.

The title of the album is Age Don't Mean A Thing.

Robert Finley is a retired carpenter, army/music vet from Bernice, Louisiana, a tiny saw-mill town (pop. 1800) carved into the woods at the confluence of a number of state highways in the middle of northern Louisiana. After joining the Army at 17, he led an Army band, and as a young man it was not uncommon for him to play 6-8 hour gigs, but once out of the service, it was tough getting gigs, so he took up his father's carpentry trade. Unfortunately, after years of work as a craftsman, he began to lose his eyesight, so he turned to music. Now, at 63, Finley has released his first album, and it's a testament which proves that age really ain't nuthin' but a number, especially when it comes to music.

Listen, Robert "SlimFinley is no spring chicken (not that that matters, right?) and if he never did another album, Age Don't Mean A Thing would live on as a classic soul blues album. The kind of album they used to make in Memphis at Stax Records, or Hi Records, or further down south at Jackson, Mississippi's Malaco Records, by artists like O.V. Wright, ZZ Hill, Johnny Taylor, Bobby Bland, Howard Tate.

That's not to say Age Don't Mean A Thing is retro. It just is what it is. It's genuine. And it's a style of soul blues that I've been listening for- it's something a little rougher, a little tougher, a little brassier. It's dynamic, unslick and smooth, and Finley, with his crackin' band, plays like the vet he is.

The production is on point, thanks to BLM's Bruce Watson and Jimbo Mathus of his own bad self, the performances are committed and hot. It's really a tight, funky album, top to bottom. Some heartbreakers, some dance songs, some grooves...it's straight classic juke joint soul blues, and you know you need some of that. Look, you got your Sharon Jones' (RiP, bless her heart) your St. Paul's, your Nathaniel Rateliff's, Your Nigel Hall's, and many other's keeping the faith, keeping that soul ember alive....but Robert Finley comes from the wood that that ember was lit from, and he is keeping it lit.

Please y'all. Go buy Robert Finley's new album Age Don't Mean A Thing. Give him your money. It's a square deal all the way around. Cheers to all the goood people involved in making this album happen.

Really. Go buy it. Right here---> Big Legal Mess Records.

|||| Here's my spiel :: --->

1. I Just Want To Tell You rocks like an early Parliaments jam, because that's what it is. Kinda. The chorus, anyway. Robert Finley's original reworking of George Clinton's I Wanna Testify is just aching to be covered by a marching band. The horns are hot and swinging, the backup singers are rockin' like a squad, the organ's roiling, and the drums and bass are stomping it down. It's a backyard party and all y'all are invited!

2.  Age Don't Mean A Thing is a classic blues number, and while it's bottom is in Chicago, its head is in Memphis. Finley's band really shows on this one, helmed by the infamously renowned Jimbo Mathus, it features members of Memphis mainstays, or lynch-pins if you will- The Bo-Keys, plus a high profile set of Memphis vets like drummer Howard Grimes (who played with everybody from Al Green to O.V. Wright) to genre neighbors like Al Gamble of St. Paul And The Broken Bones on the keys, making for a hot, broad group of passionate believers. Somewhere, Bobby Blue Bland is dancing.

3. Let Me Be Your Everything is where Finley brings some the flavor of his native state of Louisiana. This one chugs and choogles, spicy with horns, and Jerry Lee-esque piano dressing. This one's for dancing, and workin' it out.

4. It's Too Late - A heartbreaking blues lamentation on ill-timed love.

5. Snake In The Grass is such a pretty soul blues, considering the subject matter.  A slow swinger with tasteful horn accents slipping into the yard, an organ on the porch, and a drummer in the bedroom. Funky, stankyass snakes.

6. Come On - Oh, yes! Indeed. Here's that funky FunKy shit. This is a summer bbq party jam!  Jimbo's band is hot, sexy, and slanky, and Finley directs and rides their dirty southern soul party grooves like the pro he is, the entertainer that he is. #thewayIlikeitisthewayitis #yougotsomethingthatIneed #comeon

7. Make It With You - Yes, it's that song by Bread, and Finley and his band do it such soulful justice. They bring out something in that song that I bet even David Gates didn't know was there. I love seeing a song so familiar turned towards the sun a little, and Finley's version has got that and some ardent Mississippi/Louisiana moonlight, too. A simply gorgeous version.

8. You Make Me Want To Dance is a rockin' shuffle that Southside Johnny should cover.

9. Is It Possible To Love 2 People - Wow. What a way to close an album. Finley asks the age-old question: Is it possible to love two people at the same time? Or are you losing your mind? You meet someone, and someone can't keep it all friendly and above board. You do know the difference between right and wrong, but next thing you know, they broke you down, and you're in trouble. The answer is yes, of course, it's possible, but someone ain't gonna like it. Life gets awkward, gets tricky, gets deep, and gets messy. Joyful, intimate, funky, and alright!
No matter how old you are.

31 December 2016

CHEESE FiNGER BROWN - Low Down People (2016 - HUMU Records)

// HUMU RECORDS // Fb // iTunes //Spotify // Soundcloud //

The music on Low Down People, stands, stylistically, with one hoof in the bad old days, one foot in blues music's pre-Chicago golden era, and leaning hard (in wool socks and muddy pimp shoes) (but never tipping over) into The Future (whenever that is.)

Consummated of semi-equal parts R.L. Burnside's shadow, and the dark funk around the cuban heels of 
Cap'n Beefheart (I'm talking the dank stuff, not Trout Mask) the Wolves (Howlin' and especially the Little Howlin') oh, and a legion of old-timey musics, your country music, your country blues... pickin'...boogie-type-thing...an underground gospel station, some trucker radio convo static picked up and broadcast by your guitar amplifier, a skosh of Jim White's literary audio wanderlust, or maybe some Waitsian country blues favorites, sporting varying shades of modernity, and countryness, or folkiness, if you will...these are the things that Cheese Finger Brown is made of.

Cheese Finger Brown builds e
ach song as a vignette, a short audio film, with incidental sounds of wind, rain, lost piano, found vocals, guitars 'round the campfire heard from down on the dock. No drums, but rather handheld things that rattle, and scrape, and klannngg and kisssh...it's there in taut micro-grooves and organic snippets, all backwoods thrift store boogie science rolling 'round the room, but mmmmm...distorted, dirty, overheard insinuations, a momento mori, or ghost of blues. Cheese Finger Brown picks, drones, grinds, trips, disappears, winks, bobs and shake's it...hell, maybe even does a holy dance...just to get to you...and he will...

This album is ghost-laden, and as you listen there will be times you'll look to see if Low-Down People is still playing, or if it's switched to some cool, old, well-preserved Yazoo or Document Record...sounding like a field recording brought from a past sometime in the future.

Cheese Finger Brown brings a fresh ear to non-American (does it matter?) -blues, to alt-blues (whatever that is) bringing back the weird
old, olde America...as seen/ heard/ interpreted through the remove of a Dutch & Finnish eye. But, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then deconstructed replication is a form of flattery, too. Pim Zwijnenburg as Cheese Finger Brown is a sonics and texture-loving wolf who delivers the goods. At once deeply familiar yet foreign, not unlike a good Tom Waits album, or something David Eugene Edwards of Wovenhand/16HP might not have been involved in early on. 

Low-Down People
tells modern blues stories, using the old form as a canvas to color his songs, with bits of slide guitar, hard picking, maybe the rhythmic sproi-oing of a mouth harp, or somebody playing Hambone, and maybe the insistent insinuation of a banjo...some haunted harmonica...lo-fi vocals recorded in the backyard going deep in one ear and being whispered in the other. Ghostly gestures from who knows where, all very subtle, all very suggestive of other, of...place, but what place? It's not a dreamscape, per se, but it leansIt's music that suggests an other, an elsewhere, an American south imagined from books and music, and certainly movies, providing soundtracking for a neoteric Finlander. He makes creepy old American music sound creepier, without being creepy, thru the modern science of sonic technology. Or whatever.

The music, the stories, the vibe...vintage but not conscientiously so...it's the soundtrack to imagined danger...you sense it on a moonless four A.M. train stop in a south Georgia cabbage and potato town, a deep summer noon on a hot-oiled gravel road. Yet it's tasteful, as a glass of rye with three ice cubes, and a corn-cob pipeful, yet trippy as a Finnish dub-version of olde-timey American roots music. 

It's mystery that Cheese Finger Brown offers to the blues, and thank Goodness for that. 
On first sit & listen I imagined this album as a selection of 78s that somebody found at a yard sale in south Alabama, songs recorded by an artist no one had ever heard of, on records that had never been played. It's so then and now, Low-Down People, so blues history moderne, Trad old-timey blues caressed and rubbed down and burnished with The Future. Thoughtful, and engaging. Cheese Finger Brown has created a great album that bears up easily under...no...demands...repeated listenings. 
Low-Down People
is American roots music flavoured with subtle dublike effects that, while allowing the music to remain blues, gives the music a subtly mixed stoniness, an almost other-worldliness, that just drags your ears in. CFB's album is organic, populated by ghosts...of people, and the eidolon of found objects, and found sounds. Both take you elsewhere. 

Though Low-Down People mines distinctly American blues and folk forms, Cheese Finger Brown adds different leaves, different revenants, a different mystery to his blues that makes for a fascinating and 
adventurous album, that puts your ears and brain to work. It's a fun, interesting, and satisfying listen. I can't recommend it highly enough.


There is exactly one CFB video. The rest is mozzarella sticks.

12 October 2016

Robert Lee "Lil' Poochie" Watson & Hezekiah Early - Natchez Burnin'

// Broke And Hungry Records //

It's the air, or the electricity in the air, or the loessy scent of countryness...the smell of cotton and kudzu, deep loamy soil, rust and dried blood, sweat and barbecue smoke, worn rope, gasoline, hot metal, sun-dried wood, weed, whiskey, and lathered mule. Mississippi smells of The South, and whatever you think that is.

It's the Mississippiness of Mississippi, if you will. You want to talk about having Sense of Place? Mississippi is that place. And southern Mississippi? It's got something else. It's got east Louisiana.

Hometown of Guitarist/vocalist Lil' Poochie Watson and Hezekiah Early, drum and harp, Natchez, Mississippi sits a bridge and river away from Louisiana, just down around the bend from Jerry Lee Lewis' Ferriday, La.

Natchez has a little casino down by the Mississippi river, and they got Jughead's Fish Fry, and all the rest of what every other small, southern, river-side town has in one form or another: Hard-worn roots. Dirt under its nails. A chipped front tooth. Trotlines. Dog runs. Motor Court. Trash around the tracks. Hardwood. Hard time. Hard music. Big love. 


Let's talk about Natchez
Natchez was hardly touched by the civil war, but for one incident in 1851, involving the Union ironclad Essex which fired on the town in September of that year. One old fellow had a heart attack, and shrapnel killed seven-year-old Rosalie Beekman.

Now, you know the story about the fire, right?
The great Natchez Rhythm Club fire.
A gawd-awful, awful, unspeakably horrible thing.

This fire in Natchez, Ms in 1940 at the Rhythm Club killed two-hundred and nine people. That same fire inspired the dark blues standard, The Natchez Burning.

The southern Mississippi Civil Rights era was what one would expect of the horror of Nineteen-Sixties Mississippi. In 1964, 25-year-old Joe Edwards disappeared, and was believed, according to evidence given by a white pastor and a white banker, to have been murdered by the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1966, the United States House Un-American Activities Committee published a list of Klan members in Natchez. The local paper mill alone had 70 members. Cops on down and local leaders on up were well-known members.

Terrorist groups like The Cottonmouth Moccasin Gang (whose members murdered Ben Chester White in an effort to draw Martin Luther King to Natchez so they could assassinate him) and The Mississippi Whitecaps, made up mostly of rural farmers, had Natchez and southwest Mississippi locked down.

These weren't the only racist gangs in south-west Mississippi. There were White Knights, Original Knights, United Klans of America, the Silver Dollar Group, and others all intent on putting their willfully ig'nunt dumbasswards racist shit-heeled boot down on the necks of black folks just for existing. But I digress...sort of...

In 1967, George Metcalf and Wharlest Jackson were blown up in separate unsolved car bombing incidents, and Natchez was the center of Klan activity for Mississippi. Poochie Watson was eighteen years old in 1969, and growing up around the piney woods of Fayette, Mississippi.

When Charles Evers, Medgar Ever's older brother, became, in Fayette, the first black mayor since reconstruction in Mississippi, Hezekiah Early was 35.

Look, nobody really needs me to recap a litany of The South's creeping southern dread and horror as entertainment schtick.

I simply propose that this history is in the flavor of Poochie Watson and Hezekiah Early's sound, filtered thru Arkansas, MississippiLouisiana, Alabama, and the vile reality of a lot of other places not necessarily in "the south." The past isn't even past. You know that. It's not the only flavor. There's a mess of Jerry Lee Lewis, seasoned and blackened with creole beats, the bite of a cold beer found in the back of the fridge on a hot day, T-Model Ford playing on the car radio, and white whiskey.

Watson and Early's town, with its hard rurality fronted by the Natchez Trace, and backed by The Riverlent itself to a particularly virulent, low, and nasty culture, hidden beneath the veneer of a pretty little Mississippi River town.

Which is the kind of culture that often leads to a good party. As the saying goes, "Mississippi: Born to party, forced to work."

Poochie Watson and Hezekiah Early know how to party. Now, that's not to say this is some weak blooze party music, on the contrary. They'll break your heart one song, and make you shake it til you break it the next.

Recorded in three hours, under the auspices of Broke And Hungry Records strongman Jeff Konkel at Delta Music Institute at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, Natchez Burnin' is blues played with a knife in its front pocket and a bottle of rye in the back.

This is blues that deserves a 180gm slab with a gatefold jacket, or better yet, to be issued as a 78. I don't think there has been a tougher blues recording made since T-Model Ford passed on.

Here's the run-down:

1. I Got My Eyes On You is Poochie Watson's raw funky pop blues rocker. It runs akin to boogies by Greenville's T-Model Ford, or Booba Barnes.

2. Shooby Dooby Doo is a Hezekiah Early number. A sweet but deceptive little song. Part street corner pop song to whistle, part lecherous blues. Nicely balanced. Early's occasional ululation, or warble at the end of a couple lines...is dirty, is what it is. His drums, hot like Tabasco and poppin' like corn, strollin' with Watson's nighttime bbq party guitar-style down a highway by the river.

3. I Feel So Bad is a Chick Willis song that makes for a good slow soundtrack to some hunchin'.

4. Mama Don't Love Papa is another Poochie Watson song. A spare, lean lament. Hezekiah Early's drums patter a ghostly heartbeat, his harp a howl in the wind, Watson's vocals raw, and real, his guitar primal and heartbroken. 

This is blues.

5. Baby, Please Don't Go - Built and popularized by Big Joe Williams on his nine-string guitar, and covered by Muddy Waters, AC/DC, Them, Al Kooper, The 'Stones, and Mose Allison, John Lee Hooker, and Jake Bugg, among at least a bajillion others, Watson and Early bring it, wring it out, and make it their own.

6. Ain't That Just Like A Woman - Another Louis Jordan rocker, and another raucous howler. This song played by these guys in a packed room of dancers has gotta be illegal in parts of Alabama. Come on now! Give the drummer some!

7. My Girl Josephine by Antoine "Fats" Domino really shows off Watson and Early's Lousiana'd rock and roll flavour, with Hezekiah Early's harp taking the place of an accordion, his drumming washboard-metronomic, Watson's gitar scratchin' like a chicken, this New Orleans boogie rocks the yard. #ROWR!

8. Just A Little Bit by Rosco Gordon - Hezekiah Early's drumming is swinging Natchez, leaning and crackling like a hot house on fire, Louisiana-style, baby. His harp a sharp shout, vocals rending the air, and Poochie's guitar sending out the call to all the ladies to come on home and give Poochie just a little bit.

9. Late In The Evening is Traditional, and has been recorded by Robert Pete Williams, and Ray Charles. Watson and Early's version falls closer to the former, than the latter. It retains the Williams flavor, but kicks it with Brother Ray's controlled burn.

10. Mr. Charlie - I've heard variations of this song of course, but the first time I ever gave it serious consideration was in Charlotte, North Carolina, when I saw T-Model Ford play it.

The bar T-Model played, a classic brass rail and fern bar, with the usual capacity of old white blues dudes in attendance. A couple of the fellahs were up front, drunk and ruddy-faced, asking loudly for Mr. Ford to, "play that one song you do...where...you kick that woman in the ass! PLAY THAT...one song where YOU....kick that woman...here's some MONEY!" and he stuffed his fat, soft fist into the tip jar.

T-Model Ford looked annoyed at the man and said something the likes of, "Oh, yes sir, boss man, Yessir, Mr. Charlie" then started playing Mr. Charlie. It no doubt went right over the oaf's head, but I caught it. It was well played and it slayed. I don't remember him playing I'm Insane that night at all.

But back to the lecture at hand, Poochie Watson's plaintive vocals bust this song open. His guitar, like Early's harp, is interpretive, tasteful, supportive, and economical, much like Early's drums. A lesson in the raw power of simplicity.

. Flip, Flop, and Fly - Big Joe Turner, baby! The original boss of the blues. What Turner had in smoothness, Watson and Early equals in raw early rock boogie fire. Primal pop rock.

12. Somebody Changed The Lock - Louis Jordan- This is Hezekiah Early's solo jam. Homespun vocals, homemade acoustic guitar, all you need for some straight up blues. A lost art, perfected.

Robert "Poochie" Watson & Hezekiah Early's album Natchez Burnin' is currently available to pre-order direct from Broke & Hungry Records. Get it.