Stony Plain 2020
The stuff of legends: nigh on sensational session from blues movers and shakers which stayed on the shelf for a criminally long time.
It would be tempting to proffer a platitude such as “They don’t make ’em like that anymore” if most of the artists who play on this record weren’t alive and well. Devised in the back of a tour bus in 2007, when Charlie Musselwhite crossed path with NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS’ Luther and Cody Dickinson, and expanded with the brothers’ pater Jim and Alvin Youngblood Hart as well as SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS’ Jimbo Mathus by the time the party settled down for a hot jam in a Coldwater, Mississippi studio, the ensemble set their sights on invoking the spirits of yore and getting carried away. And that’s exactly what they did on a heady mix of originals and classics which shift back and forth in time and groove.
As Musselwhite’s harp smooths the ride, the musicians drive Jimi Hendrix’s “Stone Free” back to the Dust Bowl era while wrapping the romp of Charley Patton’s “Pony Blues” in contemporary sonics, yet once Dickinson Sr’s piano starts to ripple through “Blues, Why You Worry Me?” and six-string licks are let out to roam, there’s gloomy elegance ruling the den – compromised by an audible smile in Charlie’s voice. There’s also a wondrous suspense to Mathus’ new cut “Night Time” whose stereo-panned gloss will caress the listener’s ears before the country-blues twang of “Come On Down To My House” propels the Dickinsons’ vocal harmonies and deliciously simple rhythm towards hoedown, and “K.C. Moan” reveals an acoustic patina for all to marvel at.
Still, even in the presence of the lighthearted “Shake It And Break It” boogie, nothing can compare to the infectious “Let’s Work Together” which the whole band revel in because this chestnut captures their labor ethic in the best possible way, with mandolins peppering up the piece’s joyful jive and organ oiling the sway to the max, whereas the frenetic, intense, slider-kissed epic “Strange Land” is very much relevant today for sociopolitical reasons. So it doesn’t matter that the record has been languishing in the archives for more than a decade – there’s timelessness to the songs the veterans deliver, and when the final filigree of “Stop And Listen Blues” fades away, taking their tasty interplay into infinity, repeated spins are guaranteed for “Volume 1” keeps on growing on you. No doubt, the second part of the session won’t disappoint.