Not the Same Old Blues Crap II – Review

Not the Same Old Blues Crap II

(Fat Possum)
by Jon Sarre

“Whither the Blues?” this guy Rick Bragg who writes for the New York Times coulda asked rhetorically in this front page piece that ran in that rag a little while back (“The Blues is Dying in the Place It Was Born,” Sunday April 22, 2001 for those of you who read this magazine for just the newspaper references). He didn’t tho’. Me, I came outta my Sabbath Day hangover haze long enough to mutter, “Hey, that’s Paul fucking “Wine” Jones on the front page of my paper!” Sad truth is the Blues is whitherin’, tho’ not dead, not yet, as Fat Possum proves over and over again by releasin’ records like this. Hopefully they’ll be able to keep puttin’ out records. Unfortunately, time will catch up with us all sooner or later, ‘specially, if you happen to be an elderly Mississippi blues artist with a lifetime’s worth of bad road under yer belt. Five of the ten performers on Not the Same Old Blues Crap II have already gone over to the other side, and the other five – with the exception of James “Super Chikan” Johnson – are gettin’ on in years (tho’ they could still probably kick yer ass and fuck yer mom). As Matthew Johnson and Bruce Watson could probably attest to, running a label dependent on their artists not meeting their maker until someone gets it laid down on tape is no mean feat, and it’s not like there’s loadsa twenty or fortysomething whippersnappers learnin’ at T-Model Ford‘s feet (which would be a harrowing experience, I’m sure), or as Paul Jones complained to the man from the Times in better phraseology than I can muster, “I got five kids and nary a one of them plays.”

Fat Possum’s perhaps built-in destructibility aside, from the sweet primitivism of the late Scott Dunbar (offa his sole release, 1972’s From Lake Mary, re-released last year) to the acoustic hill country stylin’s of Robert Belfour to the backbeat distorto licks of messrs Jones and Ford to the rockin’ soulfuck of Super Chikan, this is a fine compilation and not the type you can pick up at yer local Starbucks (and retailing at less than five bucks you’d still have some cash left over for a frappaccino). Sure, the fake R. Crumb-like cover artwork makes the disc look like a goddamned Yazoo release, but this ain’t no folklorist type stuff. Even if Junior Kimbrough is dead, his haunting “Meet Me in the City” isn’t like anything you’d hear at B.B. King’s place, where the nostalgia runs so thick, you’d swear those people up on stage there were animated corpses (all you Goths still wouldn’t like it). Ditto for Kimbrough’s 1969 recording with his former “student” rockabilly legend Charlie Feathers (who claimed to his dying day that he taught Elvis everything he knew), cut live at Junior’s own Holly Springs juke joint (it burned down a while back but my guess is it was nothing like the House of Blues). Asie Payton died before he could make an official Fat Possum record, so they released some demos as Worried, one of those songs, “Please Tell Me” is here and one that wasn’t on the album, the amazing “Goin’ Back to the Bridge” is also thoughtfully included. The label’s most popular and successful artist (for good reason since he’s got a throat near as distinctive as Muddy Waters), R.L. Burnside is represented by two takes, neither of which sounds anything like the stuff on his breakthru “dance” record, Come On In.
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