Friday, July 01, 2011

Spencer Bohren's Blues Roots Shine

Guitarist Spencer Bohren has certainly come a long way since he got his guitar in 1964. His incorporation of country, gospel, folk and blues into a strong roots guitar style and his naturally, slightly weathered vocals has enabled him to build a following of those who appreciate his skilled and heartfelt songs and musicianship. Threadhead Records has just issued his most recent recording, Blackwater Music, where he turns his attention to eleven originals on which he son André is on drums and percussion for many.

The opening Old Louisa’s Movin’ On, has a bluesy groove with wistful lyrics about a woman left alone in the family home with his nicely paced guitar. More of a country-rock feel (Bob Seger anyone) characterizes Your Home Is In My Heart, with Rod Hodges adding biting electric guitar while Spencer adds some whining lap steel. Accompanied by just lap steel guitar, Bohren’s It Gonna Take a Miracle, an understated topical song about hard times and how we are running out of time to deal with some of our problems (oil in the water and smoke in the sky, its moment of truth but they keep telling us lies). Bad Luck Bone, with son André’s simple percussion and Spencer’s hypnotic guitar riff has a haunting mood enhanced by the spare playing. 

Has Anyone Seen Mattie? is a nice Piedmont blues tune with Matt Rhody’s violin adding a country accent to the relaxed fingerstyle blues dealing with a missing woman after the levee did break. Take Me To Rampart Street, is a delightful raggy number with a traditional jazz accompaniment with Amasa Miller’s strutting piano and Aurora Nealand’s Bechet evoking soprano sax adding to the relaxed, lively performance. The title track again is an attractive blues that finds Bohren alone on lap steel as he sings about here we don’t play Dixie no more, and “feel that back beat stomp, hear that guitar slide.” Son André piano accompanies Spencer’s vocal on Your Love a blues ballad that is in the style of some of Ray Charles 50’s compositions.

The Old Homestead is a wistful folk-blues reflecting about the days of his youth and how his family members have grown up and moved on with an gentle fingerstyle accompaniment in the manner of Elizabeth Cotton. The plight of Native Americans and the origin of such (the white man stole our land, treated us like dirt, they poisoned everything they touched, they are still not through) is the subject of Listen to the Wind, where Aurora Nealand on accordion and André’s drums and percussion lend atmosphere to this concluding performance of a remarkable recording. Bohren’s natural, grainy vocals; his adept, relaxed playing; and his thoughtful lyrics have produced the outstanding Blackwater Music.

This was a purchase. His website is and this CD and his others can be purchased at, and other sites.

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