Sunday, December 12, 2010

Watermelon Slim Takes No Paid Holidays

Watermelon Slim has emerged as a hot act in the blues and roots music realm. This is the second of three reviews of his music from the past few years. Sunday, December 5, I posted a review of the 2006 eponymously titled album on Northern Blues. This 2008 review of No Paid Holidays appeared in the October, 2008 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 309). The final review in this series will be posted Sunday, December 19.

Watermelon Slim has followed his acclaimed album,“The Wheel Man,” with a new disc, “No Paid Holidays” (Northern Blues Music), that sure is to please fans and critics alike. Backed by his tight band The Workers, he brings his multi-instrumental skills and raspy, gritty vocals to a collection of provocative originals mixed with some choice covers.

The album kicks off with some slide guitar the driving “Blues For Howard,” followed by the by the relentless vamp and groove of “Archetypical Blues No. 2” which cleverly incorporates some traditional blues stanzas.” He shifts to harp while the band kicks into a fast boogaloo groove for Detroit Junior’s “Call My Job,” with his crisp machine-gun delivery of the lyrics very effective.

You’re the One I Need,” with its Latin-shuffle rhythm, is effective with its lower-key delivery. Perhaps a bit too hard-driving may be “Bubba’s Blues,” with a guest appearance from Leroy Parnell on slide guitar. An interesting performance is Laura Nyro’s “And When i Die,” which Slim accompanies only with his harmonica, a far cry from Blood Sweat & Tears hit of the song. “Gearzy’s Boogie,” is a frenzied harp feature that features some crisp playing but perhaps a bit too frantic a tempo, which contrasts with the sparse field holler opening of “This Traveling Life,” whose starkness is broken up by some crying harmonica.

Taking up the dobro, Slim has a playful tribute to “Max The Playful Clown,” which might not be a blues, but is a damn fine song and performance. Its playful mood contrasts with his stark eyewitness protest of the brutal oppression by the military rules in Myarmar, “The Burmese Blues.” Not sure who decided to follow this with his talking blues “I Got a Toothache,” with guitar and foot stomping, but no possible fault can be found with his moving rendition of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Everybody’s Down On Me.”

There are a few flaws but overall “No Paid Holiday” is a highly satisfying recording, full of some exceptional new songs and thoughtful, yet impassioned performances.

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

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