Sunday, December 05, 2010

Watermelon Slim Brings Grit to His Blues

Watermelon Slim has emerged as a hot act in the blues and roots music realm. This is the first of three  reviews of his music that I have written over the past few years. This 2006 review (appeared in March-April Jazz & Blues Report issue 280) is of the eponymously titled CD that marked his breakout as an act. It is worth bringing this to your attention which might get lost in connection with some of his recent releases. My 2008 review of No Paid Holidays appeared in the October, 2008 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 309) will appear in this blog on Sunday December 12. The final review is of Escape From the Chicken Coop which originally appeared in the September 209 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 320) and will appear on Sunday, December 19.

Since he wrote most of the songs on the eponymously titled Watermelon Slim & the Workers (Northern Blues), I assume William Homans is Slim’s real name. I had heard of Slim since Chris Wick contacted me to promote his nomination for a W.C. Handy Award (Now known as the Blues Music Awards). His band, The Workers, also include guitarist Ian lamb and Cliff Belcher on drums with Dennis Boryki guesting on piano.

First of all, there is an authority to his singing as well as his sharp harp and slide guitar playing. His singing suggests Sam Myers to my ears, not to suggest he attempts to imitate Myers, but rather I find his voice similar. He is more than capable to bring his own voice to blues standards like Baby Please Don’t Go or Mississippi Fred McDowell’s Frisco Line, while Devil’s Cadillac, a collaboration with drummer Michael Newberry has evocative lyrics about the crossroads to go with the trebly slide guitar heard here as the Workers provide a light, latin-groove.  

Check Writing Woman is a terrific rocker with some rollicking piano and some fleet Tornado Alley guitar from Lamb and driving harp from Slim, but the band never takes things over the top. Possum Hand is a nice instrumental that displays more of Slim’s fine harp playing. Listening to this disc, it is easy to understand why Northern Blues’ Fred Litwin was excited after hearing him perform and signed him to the label.

Watermelon Slim brings a lot of things to this disc as a songwriter and a performer and has put together some terrific tracks. This gets a high recommendation.

The review copy of this CD were provided by the record label, a publicist for the label or performer.

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