This is a fine collection of tales from Kentuckian Mark Lucas. Bare boned musically for the most part the dominant sounds are Dobro (from Bleu Mortensen) and fiddle (Jenee Fleenor) with occasional banjo and mandolin. Lucas sings of a dark and mysterious world where death and the devil lurk and where strange things happen in the shadows although he tosses in a few lighter hearted rambles to sweeten the mix. Every Day I Have The Greens is a Guy Clark styled jolly romp that does for veg what Clark did for home grown tomatoes while Grits and Redeye Gravy is a wonderful paean to a diner peopled with a vibrant list of characters.
“Mac taps his skullbone, they all fought in Korea, Mac took some lead, he’s got a steel-plate that can tell the weather, he picks up Louisiana Hayride in his head.”
Fine and jolly as these are they are merely the gravy for the meat of this album. The jaunty banjo introduction to the opening title song leads us into a tale as old as the Greek myths as Lucas tells of fiddler Orphie Coulter who begs the Devil to return his lover but who makes the fatal mistake of looking back and ends up fiddling in Hell for eternity. Superbly delivered with Flenee’s fiddle playing full of fire it’s a cracking opener. Lucas slows the tempo for the scintillating Take Me Back, Water where the Dobro shines like a light in the darkness highlighting a sad tale of a nymph tortured for her ability to shed tears of pearls and who ultimately escapes.
“Rocks sewn in the pockets of her coat, she walked down to the river, got in a boat. A hunter’s moon shone, the oars creaked and moaned and a song echoed out through the cove. Take me back, water, take me back home, wash off this flesh and bleach out the bones, hold me down like a stone, take me back, take me home.” Great stuff.
Elsewhere there’s the archetypal tale of a traveller meeting the Grim Reaper on the woozy waltz that is Hezekiah while Big Bad Love is a chilling description of the tragic end to a troubled couple who fight and fuck. With sinister pedal steel and a gritty blues feel this is the aural equivalent of a Weegee Crime scene picture. The bluesy vibe continues on Pick Up which tells of a spurned wife who poisons her philandering husband and which cleverly uses the McGuffin of mobile phones which allow her to know he’s cheating and affords her a cold revenge as she calls his phone which is buried with him.
With a firm strong voice and some superb playing from his band Lucas has delivered a gem of an album which deserves to be held in the same respect as those by the likes of Gurf Morlix or Ray Wylie
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Lincoln Durham The Shovel vs. The Howling Bones
If you’re a fan of crunchy old fashioned country blues thrashing as delivered recently by the likes of Seasick Steve and even Jack White, chances are you’ll be a sucker for Texan Lincoln Durham’s debut album. Produced by veteran Ray Wylie Hubbard and studio veteran George Reiff the album is stuffed full of portentous blues slinks driven by Lincoln’s guitar accompanied by the fine drums of Rick Richards. While they provide the backbone the music is occasionally fleshed out with additional guitar by Derek O’Brien, Reiff and Hubbard himself. Mandolin, accordion and fiddle make their brief appearances and Lincoln’s gruff impassioned vocals have occasional backup.
More importantly however is the fact that although Durham is steeped in the idioms and tradition of the blues and utilises well known tropes and allusions his writing is fresh. While he conjures up a land where religion, superstition, death and tradition hold sway there are no twelve bar or boogie blues on display here. The impression of bygone days is reinforced by Lincoln’s note that the album was “Recorded using early to mid-century Gibsons, Kays, Silvertones, Voxs, Bell & Howells, guitars found in potted plants, cardboard boxes, bird feeders, oil pans, hacksaws, feet and anything else that would make a noise.”
From the opening suicide letter that is Drifting Wood with its acoustic guitar maelstrom to the closing Trucker’s Love Song which approaches the majesty of The Band in their heyday all of these songs are excellent. While there are some low down dirty blues moans such as Living This Hard and Mud Puddles, Durham is able to pen a love letter from a dead man to his lover visiting his grave in Clementine that, aside from revisiting the well known Long Black Veil, is a catchy and hummable tune. With nods to Muddy Waters and Fred McDowell in the lyrics its apparent that Durham knows where his roots lie and its to his credit that he’s able to gather them all up and create something new here.
Trucker’s Love Song
Matt Anderson Coal Mining Blues
From country blues to a smoother, more soul influenced blues style, Matt Anderson is a young Canadian whose fourth album finds him produced by the great Colin Linden (Blackie and the Rodeo Kings) who adds some scintillating guitar to most of the cuts here and co-wrote several of the songs. Recorded at Levon Helm’s studios there’s another Band connection with Garth Hudson contributing accordion on Home Sweet Home. Anderson and band conjure up a fine soulful sound with horns and organ beefing up the sound while he and Linden duel on guitar with Anderson proving himself no slouch on his own solos. He sings well with his performance on the superb Otis Redding like Baby I’ll Be outstanding. This is the highlight of the album with a beautiful and tender guitar solo that is just so good it begs to be listened to again and again. Anderson excels on the title song and She Comes Down which are in the grand tradition of southern soul but he can also rip loose on the swaggering Fired Up and Heartbreaker. The rural side of the blues is visited in Home Sweet Home and Willie’s Diamond Joe where mandolin and accordion replace the horns and keyboards and while not as immediate as the rest both are fine songs.
Anderson has gained some rave reviews on his previous tours over here and he’s returning in late February and March although we don’t see and Scottish gigs listed. Nevertheless a fine album that grows in stature with repeated listening.
Baby I’ll Be
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