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Northern Blues (NBM0064)


Tomorrow Night, Bull Goose Rooster, Over The Horizon, Vigilante Man, A Wrench In The Machine, I'm A King Bee, Prison Walls, Blue Freightliner, Scratch My Back, I Ain't Whistling Dixie, Take My Mother Home, The Wobble, Trucking Class, Northwest Passage, The Foreign Policy Blues, Words Are Coming To An End

Not only a new album by the great Watermelon Slim but the return of The Workers, the band that gave him such rock-solid backing on the albums that first made his name. - Watermelon Slim And The Workers (NBM0032), The Wheel Man (NBM0038) and No Paid Holidays (NBM0047).

Over recent years, being forever his own man and by nature a contrarian, Slim has ventured off without the The Workers to cut a number of country-inflected albums and an intriguing collaboration with Super Chikan. Being such committed fans here at The Lickery we loved these detours but we are aware that some fans wanted The Workers back and normal slide-driven blues service resumed.

So, if you are one of those keen for a return to business as usual, here you go. Or, at least, sort of. The Workers are indeed back and there are lots of great driving blues, fronted by Slim's uniquely lived-in vocals, searing slide guitar and rasping harmonica. These are magnificently delivered on the better-known covers included such as Slim Harpo's Scratch My Back and King Bee and Woody Guthrie's Vigilante Man. Likewise, the band are really cooking on excellent originals like Prison Walls, Blue Freightliner, A Wrench In The Machine and the title track Bull Goose Rooster.

Elsewhere though, Slim being Slim, there are plenty of curve-balls thrown, from the genius solo piano patterns behind Slim's vocal duet with Danielle Schnebelen on Over The Horizon, to unaccompanied vocal performances (somewhere between folk poems and field hollers) on Take My Mother Home and North West Passage.  And then there's the humourous country song in favour of truckers, Trucking Class, that would have fitted nicely on his recent albums Escape From The Chicken Coop (NBM0054) or Ringers (NBM0059). And not forgetting The Foreign Policy Blues, Slim's angry lament at the US Government's inability to get anything right on the international stage, or the meditative closer of Words Are Coming To An End, just Slim and his gently picked guitar. A lovely way to end.

I say this nearly every time Slim brings out a new album, but I really think this is his best one yet. Few can throw in so much variety, take such risks and still get so much right.

Review Date: July 2013

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