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Bukka White - Memphis Hot Shots (1968)

Nearly thirty years before tastemakers at Fat Possum capitalized on the scheme of fusing garage rock with country blues Bukka White cut this asymmetrical album. The aged bluesman was still riding the swell of his “rediscovery”, regularly appearing at Folk and Blues festivals on both sides of the Atlantic. Sensing the Zeitgeist he expressed an interest in recording with a backing band, preferably comprised of young turks. Trouble was, like other idiosyncratic troubadours, White’s music worked best as a solitary affair or with minimal (usually washboard) accompaniment. British producer Mike Vernon honored the desire anyway and organized a pick-up band of second guitar, harmonica, piano, string-bass, drums and washboard. Two of the sidemen even adopted the colorful monikers of Harmonica Boy and Anchor for the session. All were mere fractions of their frontman’s age.

The set list is a predictable mix of White’s “hits” as well as ‘standards’ sifted through the Buddha-smiling raconteur’s improvisatory sieve. White called his extemporaneous creations “sky songs,” a phrase touching on his tendency to pluck ad-lib verses and chords from out of thin air. The band responds to his unscripted anecdotal ditties with varying efficacy. The most startling collision occurs early on White’s signature “Aberdeen, Mississippi Blues,” a train wreck on the surface that reveals an odd syllogistic solidarity within the tangled wreckage. Here it almost sounds as if Bukka layed down his vocal and guitar tracks first and the band overdubbed their parts on top days later with the tape decks set to the wrong speed. Chugging backbeat drums, slapping bass and wailing harmonica approximate a speeding locomotive while White resolutely rides a completely different rail. As incongruous as the fit is there are improbable moments where everything synchs up and the effect is electrifying.

The band sits out on a handful of tracks too, like the dour “Drifting Blues” and harrowing “(Brand New) Decoration Blues” ideal vehicles for White’s gravelly bark and hard-strumming fret-play. On the latter he refurbishes the habitual lyrics with a string of virginal verses, slapping his surname on the song credit to boot. With “Give Me An Old, Old Lady” White acquiesces to his band, whooping and grooving on a stomping rock beat and rolling out the lyric: “Got an old lady, sittin’ in my bed, when I come ‘round, she gonna rub my head…” without the least bit of bashfulness. White’s Pre-War sides for Vocalion are a benchmark of his career (and arguably Pre-War blues in general), but this Blue Horizon set makes for a very pleasing detour and anomaly. One lingering question: is that Bukka in the spacesuit or some defacto substitute?

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3 komentarze:

Ankh pisze...


Kadek55 pisze...

Great! Thanks a lot...

Record Fiend pisze...


This is indeed a great album, probably the most successful attempt at taking a blues legend and backing him with band of white musicians, which was the thing to do in the late 1960s.

I have this LP in my collection with a different, less interesting cover. I like your version much better. Yeah, I wonder if that is Bukka in the space suit...


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