Bobby Rush with Blinddog Smokin'
Silver Talon Records
Decisions is a contemporary blues collaboration between Chitlin' Circuit eminence Bobby Rush and the band Blinddog Smokin'. The band is a seasoned party unit and clearly knows how to rumble up a room of drunks. They provide the basis for Rush to do his thing over the course of the record. But the showpiece is the album opener, "Another Murder in New Orleans," with a guest appearance by Mac Rebennack (Dr. John). The song is a message-music heavy weight set to a reliable blues rhythm section. The remainder is dependable if predictable, contemporary blues: There's a five-string bass and some serious midwestern accents in the mix. I think this set up would be more compelling live. The perfect act for a barbecue tent.
From Nehi Records in Surrey, England, comes Peabody Blues, a collection of songs recorded in the Peabody Hotel.
In 1929, the Brunswick/Vocalion label set up a remote recording studio in the hotel. Over four days, Furry Lewis, Walter Vinson, Charlie McCoy, Speckled Red, Jenny Pope, Robert Wilkins, Garfield Akers, Jed Davenport, Joe Williams, and Kid Bailey cut a full gamut of Southern, acoustic blues.
This is Lewis in his pre-revival period, in which we find him as a full force of nature. "Creeper's Blues" is a nut-house classic about roaches and bed bugs playing baseball before things get weird. Lewis would spend three decades in obscurity before his reemergence in the 1960s.
Mississippi Sheik Walter Vinson's tracks are string-ensemble pieces with a fiddle, guitar, and unison singing. Many of the songs have two parts owing to the limitations of the day. Vinson backs McCoy on his tracks, and the mandolin rounds out the Mississippi sound. Piano man Speckled Red bangs out "The Dirty Dozen," which would make Hank Williams Jr. blush. Pope's "Whiskey Drinking Blues" has a delightfully lyrical slide accompaniment along with a piano. The playing has the harmonic breadth that bedevils so much contemporary blues.
Peabody Blues is not only an artifact, this is a compelling collection aurally and, given the artwork, visually too.
Soul Patch Records
Black Sabbath is for the generations. If your band is wondering whether or not to lay wicked, smoldering, fuzz-blues guitar over crashing waves of bass and drums and top it all off with echo-drenched vocal melodies, go ahead and do that. It still works. It will always work. There will never be enough.
One guy getting the message is Will Stull. On Fuzz Wizard, he smartly keeps it simple and lets the fuzz in between the notes do the work. The whole sound hums like a hive. The drums and bass have the pot-bellied, tube warmth of British metal. The album is textbook Midlands hippie, the heavier, surlier, pint-downing sort. The album is joyously pre-Metallica and there is a gallop and spacious sense of harmony to the music that got lost in American metal of the 1980s. I miss the days when metal was sung, not shouted. There is an overlay of punk sensibility that accounts for the short song lengths, a definite improvement on the wandering tendencies of the old guard.
Stull is making smart choices. Keep listening.
Khari Wynn is the son of music critic Ron Wynn and a musical wonder whose résumé includes work as Public Enemy's musical director. A guitarist and bassist, Wynn draws on a musical background of having grown up across from Royal Studios. He played on the James Brown tribute tour with Bootsy Collins and Clyde Stubblefield. All this adds up to a heady mix that is Energy Eternal, the latest release from his group Energy Disciples.
There is some freak flag flying as synths, flutes, and vocal textures accompany spoken-word mind expansions and hypnotic beats. But the sounds evolve with the energy-oriented thematic material, and passages that create tension resolve into fascinating musical developments. There is an aura of Hendrix, Gil Scott-Heron, and Marvin Gaye in the project. There are hints of Stravinsky dancing on violins in the distance, haunted by screams and a heart-beat pulse. It's out there.
The most compelling parts find Wynn blending a variety of string instruments into well-crafted harmonic passages. The interplay of violins and the Theremin keep the project on a loftier plane than other attempts to occupy this musical space. It's smart and funky. It's deep and thoughtfully developed music. By no means is this first-date music. But it is art and worth a listen.
It's Dangerous To Go Alone! Take This.
J.D. Reager and CB3
Flyer contributor J.D. Reager is celebrating the release of his latest record on Friday at Bar DKDC. He is well served by his choice of drummer. John "Bubba" Bonds has a history of keeping things lively and on time. His playing is energetic and compelling. It's no wonder he plays with so many people. Reager's voice is in good shape and leads the set through full-throttle power-pop songs. The guitars are studied and add dimension to the varied set that includes rockers, power-pop songs, and drones. It's an interesting mix of sounds and thoughtful lyrics.