Shake Hands With Shorty
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What is the sound of one blues exploding? It is the North Mississippi Allstars, one of the most exciting bands to emerge from the South in a long, long time. This is Black Flag if its members were Fred McDowell, R. L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and Otha Turner. Guest stars would include Duane Allman, Captain Beefheart, and Howlin' Wolf. Luther Dickinson plays guitar like an octogenarian bluesman on his first amphetamine rush; his brother Cody drums hard, like a Keith Moon born and bred in Mississippi (their dad is famed producer/musician Jim Dickinson). Linking the two is Chris Chew, who spits out bass fat and heavy. Their music rockets from the rural backwoods to the laser CD player like a jack on a jenny. Songs that evolved through the last century are given new life, ensuring their relevance to another generation. World Boogie is upon us. --Robert Gordon
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With that said, this really is a terrific album, and I would highly recommend it, with a few qualifiers.
First of all, the album can seem rather repetitive given the nature of most of the songs (7/10 written by the same two ancient bluesmen), and at times this can grate on the listener. Given my interest in this kind of blues, I was not bothered by the repetition, because it is so well done. Those not fully converted to this school of music may find it tiresome after the first listen.
Secondly, (this is inherently related to the first qualification), the album is not diverse with regard to the material. There is only one real departure from the old blues music, "K.C. Jones" which presents an interesting story set against a relatively technically proficient blues-country background. The rest could be one extended blues medley; whether this is good or bad is contingent upon the listener.
To summarize, this is an awesome album within a specific, and very defined, discipline. If the listener is not committed to this type of music, most likely he or she will not really enjy this c.d. If the converse is true, get ready for a great debut!
The All-Stars are good band, and it is hard to doubt their sincere love for the hill country blues of North Mississippi, but the fact remains that this record is a weak imitation of R.L Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. It blows rock fans away, just like Clapton and Page blew rock fans away back in the 60s, because even a weak imitation of the blues is way more powerful than what most rock fans are used to hearing.
I don't understand how adding some Allman Brothers licks to a Junior Kimbrough song makes the blues "relevant to today's listeners," as Amazon's reviewer suggests. It's about as relevant as turning on a classic rock station and hearing "Whipping Post" or "Layla" for the five thousandth time.
R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough are as relevant as it gets. They don't need to be reinterpreted, updated, or otherwise modified by the All-Stars or by anyone else. Take my word on this one, purchase R.L.'s "Too Bad Jim" instead. Ain't nothing like the real thing.
These guys are true rock gods...every second of every song is filled with such emotion and feeling. It is solid from top to bottom...I can't count how many times I've just laid around in my room and listened to the whole thing from start to finish. If you dig good music...this is where it's at. And if you get a chance, see these guys live....it's something special.