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Little Howlin' Wolf - genius or freak?


(Photos by Bill T Miller)



Wędrując wciąż dalej ku nieznanemu, w swojej muzycznej wędrówce, natrafiłem na kolejną szczególną postać równie barwną, co enigmatyczną. Jakże miłe uczucie mnie ogarnęło, że jest to nasz rodak - James Pobiega - zwany czasem Little Howlin' Wolf, lub Shadow Drifter, lub Buccaneer Bob, lub Deacon Blue. Pobiega jest polskim emigrantem mieszkającym na przedmieściach Chicago. Sam siebie nazywa muzykologiem. Często gra na ulicach jako one man band, ale jeśli będziesz szczęściażem i trafisz na dobry dzień James z chęcią będzie snuł barwne opowieści ze swojego życia - jak to był działaczem w "Solidarności" albo tajnym agentem i wiele wiele innych. Najważniejsza jest jednak muzyka. Właściwie nie można jej nijak zaszufladkować - to połączenie geniuszu z czystym szaleństwem. Podobnie określano muzykę Captaina Beefhearta, któremu Pobiega chyba jest najbliższy. Słuchać tu jednak inne echa - czarnych bluesmanów z nad delty Mississippi, jazzowej awangardy w stylu Alberta Aylera czy Jandka. Zresztą oceńce to sami. Zamieszczone tu odnośniki prezentują kompilację z singlii oraz niekompletny album "Brave Nu World" (trudno, ale i tak było ciężko cokolwiek trafić).


(Photos by Bill T Miller)

James Pobiega - Polish-derived man from Chicago's South Side, performed heavily in bars and and to a greater extent on the street of his home turf during the late 70s through the mid 80s under the name Little Howlin Wolf. During that time, self-released 32 45s (that weknow of) and two LPs (compiled from the 7"s) titled The Guardian and The Cool Truth. The LPs show a unique and visionary take on emotive, raw, dissolved blues featuring Wolf on every instrument he could lay his hands on with a wrenching souldfulness and commanding fire-brained intensity to match Albert Ayler. The 45s, though, are where Wolf really stretched out, taking his music to its furthest reaches including stabs at Calypso, gypsy songs, Country-Western and children's songs.



Shattered-blues meditations; stoned, staggering polkas; ancient tongues spewing forth haunted voodoo-gibberish; back-porch gospel delirium; a room full of Chess session musicians tinkering with their instruments, too wasted to pull it together for just one more take before the crack of dawn -- these are just a few of the fleeting impressions the unique American music of one Little Howling Wolf evokes. As legend has it, Wolf (aka James Pobiega of Chicago) is a Polish-American genius-freak street busker who self-released approximately 32 45s and two LPs during the late '70s and early '80s. When these singles are consumed in a compilation-size dose -- as they can be with this release -- LHW's aesthetic becomes a panorama of 20th-century American folk and pop forms, methodically shredded and Scotch-taped back together into a mangled folk-blues groove that's incessantly threatening collapse into some incoherent muttering-madness -- but never does. Even when saxes, mouth harps, acoustic guitars, drums, various percussive effects, and LHW's guttural vox are all seemingly jamming on vastly different tunes from widely different eras, the ship holds together. That's because this Little Howling Wolf character possesses true outsider vision. Somebody declare this guy a national treasure. --- Justin F. Farrar


(in comments)

James Pobiega lives on the southwest outskirts of Chicago, where he has spent a great deal of time playing as a street musician. His aliases include Little Howlin' Wolf, Deacon Blue, Buccaneer Bob and Shadow Drifter. He described himself as a musicologist. He has an extensive list of credits, including street theater and his long career as a do-it-yourself musician.

If you are fortunate enough to meet him and spend some time listening, he will proudly share with you accounts of other adventures...as a bounty hunter, scuba diving instructor, activist with the solidarity movement, secret agent, even working in character as a children's entertainer in pirate guise. Famous names are sprinkled thru the conversation, mentioned as both friends (Mr. T) and those who have derived inspiration from his activities (Steely Dan).



He has primarily worked within the blues & freeform jazz idioms, but is very open to other influences...cajun, voodoo, pirates included. His recordings are hard to come by, and are much sought by collectors. The one LP I have, The Cool Truth, is a melange of styles: drums with chants in tongues I cannot recognize, multi-tracked blues songs that seem to threaten to fly apart, but hold together somehow, growling buccaneer-speak and channeled New Orleans spirits. I have to mention the hand-painted & lettered cover as well, becuase it reflects the quality and personality of the music in the grooves perfectly.

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