Never-Heard Material & Killer Riffs On Jesse Mae Hemphill's Latest LP 

While some carry the torch of the North Mississippi blues tradition, no one on the scene now really compares to the great Jessie Mae Hemphill of Senatobia, (and later of Memphis). Her exacting riffs, spare and stinging, have an intriguing intricacy, yet never sacrifice the hypnotic quality of the form. They are instantly recognizable, but, as we hear on the never before released tracks of Run Get My Shotgun (Big Legal Mess), can vary subtly across different versions of the same songs.

Thus, it should not surprise listeners that only four of the titles here — "Run Get My Shotgun,"  "DC9," "Holy Ghost," and "Nothing That You Say" — have never been heard on vinyl.  Nevertheless, these new songs alone make it well worth the price of admission. The title track is especially gripping, as the She-Wolf threatens death to her lover with grim ferocity: "I'm gonna blow my baby away, keep on messin up on me! Yeah! 1990, I'm gonna do something I ain't got no bidness doin'! Me and my shotgun. Yeah. I say run get my shotgun...and me a box of shells."
click to enlarge Jessie Mae Hemphill
  • Jessie Mae Hemphill
It's telling that she shouts out the year. These are solo recordings made on New Years Eve, 1989, to which the folks at Big Legal Mess have added some spare bass and drums. These overdubs were done with such finesse that the final product is indistinguishable from Hemphill's full band tracks from the same era. Perhaps they have the advantage of foregrounding her guitar and vocals even more prominently.

And her singing and playing shine here, revealing a more pronounced aggressiveness than in her classic studio tracks on She-Wolf (Vogue, 1981) and Feelin' Good (High Water, 1990). Perhaps she used a different guitar in every recording session, but for whatever reason, the guitar here is especially powerful and biting in her nimble hands. And she delivers even the unfamiliar songs with the authority of having lived with them for ages. 

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