Friday, May 23, 2008

Raised by wolves and glows in the dark

Jim Dickinson's Field Recordings: Delta Experimental Project Vol 3
Jim Dickinson did a little piece for Paste magazine and had the best byline I've ever read.

Jim Dickinson was raised by wolves and glows in the dark.

Really, that has set the bar high for brilliant bylines. This collection of raw-as-fuck Mississippi hill country blues conspired itself to my ears today because of two emails I read this morning, one asking me if I was going to the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic in July (unlikely) and another asking about Otha(r) Turner and the Rising Sun Drum and Fife Band, which appears on this record. My dream life would be to answer these kinds of questions all day. Maybe with enough questions, I too will glow in the dark.

The weirdest thing on here is Furry Lewis' "Turkey in the Straw." It's not that Lewis is out of tune, he is on a different metaphysical plane than tune. I guess that blues fed on some demonic strain of poke salot with roots soaking in the planet's infernal molten core is gonna sound a little messed up when it reaches the surface.

Furry Lewis - Good Morning Judge
North Mississippi it is today. "I got arrested once, all on the humbum" is how this atom bomb of a record starts. Listening to this, you can hear where John Fahey got a lot of his sense of dynamics from. Musicians from this part of Mississippi have a way of tapping into a cosmic density that other strains of blues can't get to. I think this kind of blues is a direct relative of Southern humidity, it is so all-encompassing that you have to submit to it, and let it under your skin even when its gone on for too long.

"Furry Lewis Rag" is recorded like you are sitting inside a refrigerator box listing to Lewis sing and fingerpick his intricate guitar melodies, crouched over, up close in your face, while someone beats on the outside of the box with a fence plank for the beat, each whack making your vision go white for just a second.

Mississippi John Hurt - Salty Dog: Live John Mississippi Hurt
I really prefer the archival Avalon Blues record to his revival recordings in the 60s, only because the music on Avalon steams out of a hole in time/space, tumbling through the fields of your consciousness on butterfly wings. I've always found the way he sings about murder and death and cheating and all the usual blues topics with such unassuming delicacy so disarming. I mean, Frankie did give old Albert that $100 for a suit of clothes and subsequently did her wrong with that wretched whore Alice, so it makes sense that she'd kill him in such a calm and lilting manner. Shooting him was part of keeping balance in the universe.

T-Model Ford - Bad Man
Converse to the gentle souls coaxing this music out of Stela acoustics with delicate fingers, T Model Ford is a badass motherfucker violently stumping a knockoff heavy metal axe with cloven hooves. I once watched T-Model Ford drone out a 45-minute version of "Mannish Boy" at the Maple Leaf at 3 in the morning, alone on an electric guitar. The pickup band joined him when he was finished and they launched into the same song for another 18 minutes, Ford cackling away over his beat-up guitar as his 8-year old grandson sold CD's to exhausted drunks.

If Mississippi John Hurt is a sleepy porch dog, occasionally nipping at a fly, T Model Ford is a Doberman barking at you from behind a chain link fence until you leave.

Hound Dog Taylor - Hound Dog Taylor & the Houserockers
And Hound Dog Taylor is so primitive that he makes T Model Ford seem like "town." This and its follow-up Natural Boogie are two of the most unchained records in all of blues. The beloved Alligator Records label was started to release this very record.

According to legend, Hound Dog was born with an extra finger on his right hand and cut it off with a razor blade one night while drunk. His guitar sounds like its trying to cut off another. You can almost smell the smoke of burnt amp circuits on it, while the drums rat tat like hailstones.

Junior Kimbrough - God Knows I Tried
And we close this Mississippi meltdown with mercurial music of Junior Kimbrough. His drag was the draggiest, mean was the meanest, dark mood was the darkest, incendiary was the incendiariest. He didn't really have the speed of Hound Dog Taylor or the kidney punch of Ford, but Junior Kimbrough was about setting fire to the house and watching it burn more than he was about knocking it down. It doesn't matter if you glow in the dark in Junior Kimbrough's world, the darkness will swallow you up like everybody else.

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