Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

JAMES BLOOD ULMER

Bad Blood in the City: The Piety Street Sessions

2007-09-07

Returning from last year’s side trip with Odyssey the Band, James “Blood” Ulmer has crafted a disc that takes its inspiration from the blues but doesn’t spend much time in the 12 bar shuffle rut. Joined by Vernon Reid of Living Color fame on guitar and a host of other musicians who add color and texture with electric fiddles and mandolins, Hammond b-3, clarinet and other assorted instruments Ulmer lays down a polyrhythmic stew reflecting both the African roots of the blues and its metamorphosis into a many headed creature when channeled through the American South. Junior Kimbrough’s "Sad Days, Lonely Nights" is lifted from its hypnotic roots and re-imagined with a complexity that would not be out of place on a Mamadou Diabate disc while "Let’s Talk About Jesus" finds a gospel center with its energetic background vocals and "Backwater" distinguishes itself from the standard slow blues grinder with well placed harmonica and electric violin accents. Elsewhere, Willie Dixon’s "Dead Presidents", Howlin’ Wolf’s "Commit a Crime" and his own "There is Power in the Blues" strike a more traditional blues pose. With a voice that alternates between the bullfrog croak of Randy Newman and a well worn version of Taj Mahal, Ulmer delivers lyrics that, among other things, encourage those impacted by the devastation of hurricane Katrina to take it up with the President, "Katrina". Ulmer isn’t afraid to take on controversy, a point he drives home with conviction on John Lee Hooker’s "This Land is Nobody’s Land" and on "Slave Master" where he likens the “help” provided in the wake of Katrina to the “keep in line” mentality of the old boss man. A captivating disc that digs deep. Smitty www.hyenarecords.com

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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