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LIGHTNIN' MALCOLM

RENEGADE featuring Cameron Kimbrough

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Ruf (RUF1170)

Ain't Even Worried, Stop Fightin' Over Me, Renegade, So Many Women, Guilty Man, My Lyin' Ass, Last Nite I Held An Angel, Precious Jewel, Come Go With Me, North Mississippi, Foxfire Ranch, Tell You Girl, You Better Recognize.

I first became aware of Steve "Lightnin" Malcolm a few years ago when he was playing on sessions for Cat Head Records and making stage appearances with blues men like Robert Belfour, T-Model Ford, Othar Turner and Jessie Mae Hemphill. His raw and raggedy guitar style gelled perfectly with their chaotic timing, off beat accents and weird bar structures - playing just the kind of music that I find irresistible. When I heard he'd made an album of guitar and drum pieces with Junior Kimbrough's grandson Cameron, I knew it was going to be one for me.

Most of the album is rocking stuff that's volatile at times and infused with pounding Hill Country blues sounds mixed with aspects of soul, reggae, hip-hop, rock and funk. Lightnin' Malcolm's growling guitar takes centre stage while Cameron's percussion melds fife and drum and hard rock together with both urban and rural blues drumming techniques. A small horn section is added on songs like Guilty Man, the reggae styled Precious Jewel and North Mississippi. The weirdly weedy sound they generate reminds me of those cheesy horns on ska records of the sixties but they fit in perfectly.

It's the Hill Country blues material that I like best of course - especially the churning force of Stop Fightin' Over Me which uses a Junior Kimbrough-like three note rumble lick to propel this upbeat boogie and features Malcolm's voice matching his guitar lines note for note in the same way that Fred McDowell and Mance Lipscomb did. Speaking of McDowell, Malcolm comes as close to his guitar style as anybody I've heard on So Many Women which is filled with percolating finger-picking on the vocal lines that soar into a wild slashing choogling crescendo on the solos.

My Lyin' Ass sounds like a song that was born and raised in a North Mississippi juke joint. It's got a hard driving dance rhythm that develops into a thundering mess of noise thanks to weighty runs on the bass strings and the stuttering, fuzzy solos that at times are electrifying. Last Nite I Held An Angel is a strange blues-tinged doowop ballad which, as well as having a Junior Kimbrough feel in the rhythm, incorporates some Guitar Slim-style thrashing guitar moves.

Reminding me of some obscure sixties soul tune, Tell You Girl is a soulful track that's grown on me but the prize for best song on the album goes to You Better Recognize. This one is a lumbering, raw edged blues with more than a hint of the Rolling Stone theme about it but Malcolm revitalises it with his loose limbed, almost improvisational trademark guitar style.

You might have seen Lightnin' Malcolm in action on the Broke & Hungry/Cat Head DVD ‘M For Mississippi' (DVD4M4M001) ably supporting the rhythms of the Mississippi Marvel and RL Boyce but now he's come out of the shadows and for a first album, this is top class.

 

Review Date: July 2011

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