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FAT POSSUM (803692)

Hill Stomp, Breaking My Heart, Pushin' My Luck, Go Ahead On, You Got Me Crying, I Got My Eyes On You, Sweet Brown Sugar, Stayed Awake, Crazy Ways, I'm Gonna Leave.

This is one of those CDs that you just know is gonna be great!  The sleeve design, the whole feel of the thing has that certain something that makes you know you're going to love it.

Robert Belfour is from the North Mississippi Hill Country and his music is loaded with that insistent, rhythmic, hypnotic overdrive that throbs along in the music of RL Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and Fred McDowell. Belfour though, doesn't quite follow the crowd. His own take on the music is to play his slightly electrified guitar alongside the slamming bass and snare drums of partner Ted Gainey creating a fabulous left-field sound; the crystal-clear, sharp-picking by Belfour hitting the right mood with Ted's tasty echoing funky stickwork.

I don't know diddley about recording techniques but obviously the Possums do. Sonically, this is superior to the quality of most country blues I know. The guitar sound in particular has a vitality and sparkle that I've not noticed in country blues recordings before - it's a nice rich deep bass without any booming while the high notes come out crisp and clean.

Maybe it's just Belfour's terrific technique. It sounds simple and uncomplicated on first hearing but after a while you start wondering how many fingers he's got! He keeps an unhurried bass line going at the same time as he pumps out some deft picking on the bottom strings. No strumming or slide - just note perfect single string picking and some of the most gorgeous little riffs ever. He plays bass, rhythm and lead all at the same time in a fluid, driving style that puts me in mind of Mance Lipscomb. In fact, I was as thrilled to discover Belfour as I was to discover Mance! He has the perfect voice too - imagine a less intense Son House and you've nailed him.

All the songs are written by Robert and keep to that rolling, hypnotic intensity that you get in the Burnside/Kimbrough school of North Mississippi blues and although he can rock out as good as Burnside on upbeat booters like "I Got My Eyes On You" and the nasty "Crazy Ways", Robert's style is generally regal and stately going, demonstrating how you don't need to make a big scruffy racket to get the message across.

One listen to the first track, the instrumental "Hill Stomp" and you're hooked. It's got everything - a driving, intricate guitar line, a throbbing bass riff, tricky fingering and a superb bit of fife and drum. There it goes fading away without a letup in the infectious rhythm, and we're into "Breaking My Heart", another foot stompin' number with Robert hollering out the song, pausing only to slap in a neat little solo that slips perfectly back into the groove and we're off again. It's really tremendous stuff.

It's so hard to pick a favourite track - they just roll into one another, making it the kind of album that you listen all the way through and then reach for the repeat button. For me this album is in the same five star categories as the Fred McDowell and Charles Caldwell CDs also on Fat Possum.


Review Date: January 2009

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