This writer was not enthusiastic with the collaboration of Lightnin’ Malcolm and Cedric Burnside on the 2Man Wrecking Crew CD. It struck me as perhaps taking the North Mississippi Hills groove associated with Fred McDowell and R.L. Burnside in a very limited manner. Malcolm, a Missouri native, who immersed himself in the music of this style is back with a release Renegade on Ruf Records where Cameron Kimbrough, the grandson of Junior Kimbrough, is on drums and several selections have a horn section added.
While its been awhile since I listened to the earlier disc, the performances here strike me as a bit more focused in performance. Kimbrough does a fine job in complementing Malcolm’s vocals and guitar which more than on one occasion evoke Mississippi Fred McDowell. The Hill Country blues style that is the foundation makes use of repetitive, hypnotic grooves that can bore but Malcolm avoids here with his guitar that displays an economy of expression (and aided by Kimborugh’s often lighter percussive touch) as well as his haunting vocals. This is clear on the opening Ain’t Even Worried, as well as the following Stop Fightin’ Over Me with a chugging groove in the vein of some of R.L.Burnside’s numbers with judicious use of tremolo in his fuzzy tone. The rocking groove of So Many Women recalls several of Fred McDowell’s songs such as Write Me a Few Lines, in a most compelling fashion.
The title track is more in the vein of roots rock with some heavily distorted guitar, while the horns embellish Guilty Man providing a different flavor and adding to the variety here. Last Nite I Held An Angel is taken at a dirge-like tempo as his angel has to fly, followed by Precious Jewel with its rock steady reggae groove and horns along with Nadirah Shakoor joining on the vocal. Perhaps because of what might be described as some awkwardness in the lyrics, this is a very appealing track. Come Go With Me is a lesser performance although with a sample dance groove. North Mississippi is a celebration of his home area with brassy punch added by the horns before J Grubbz adds a rap. Foxfire Ranch is a chugging instrumental that builds on a simple musical riff.
There may some songs on this that may strike some as less than inspired, but Lightnin’ Malcolm certainly performs with plenty of heart and conviction here. Overall Lightnin’ Malcolm may be a Renegade but he has produced a solid album rooted in the Hills Country Blues.
The review copy was received from a publicist for the record label.