WATERMELON SLIM AND THE WORKERS
NO PAID HOLIDAYS
NORTHERN BLUES (NBM0047)
Blues For Howard, Archetypal Blues No. 2, Call My Job, Dad In The Distance, You're The One I Need, Bubba's Blues, And When I Die, Into The Sunset, Gearzy's Blues, This Traveling Life, Max The Baseball Clown, The Bloody Burmese Blues, I've Got A Toothache, Everybody's Down On Me.
Watermelon Slim was nominated for a record twelve blues awards in 2007 and 2008 and his brilliant two CDs "Watermelon Slim & The Workers" (NBM0032) and "The Wheelman" (NBM0038) were Mojo Magazine's blues album of the year for 2006 and 2007. Regular Red Lickers agreed wholeheartedly when your enthusiasm made ‘em OUR albums of those years too!
We've been gasping for a new Watermelon Slim CD and I can guarantee you won't be disappointed. It's another blast! Fourteen songs filled with his howling Oklahoma yard-dog vocals, hard driving harmonica and, best of all, his relentlessly urgent slide guitar work.
Slim specialises in down to earth songs about the working man's problems - as you'll hear on his own hard bitten blues like the blistering "Blues for Howard" which barrels along with tons of vital slide guitar. This song celebrates his friend, the historian Howard Zinn who (to save you researching) is the million-selling author of "The Peoples History of the United States". Slim obviously keeps good company!
"Bubba's Blues" is another heavy outing with great lyrics and excellent phrasing alongside some bone-chilling slide-work that sounds like a cross between Duane Allman and old-style Ry Cooder. Slim plays some spectacular harmonica on the careering "Gearzy's Boogie" which opens up at a hundred miles and hour and never lets up thanks to the bopping bass, thwacking drumming and an inspired solo from guitarist Mack McCullen. It's one of the best harp instrumentals I've heard in a long time. I love those sections where Slim makes the harmonica squeal just like Papa Lightfoot did. He cites George Mayweather as his mentor but I think he must have studied Lightfoot. For more evidence, check out those big notes on the funky "Call My Job"!
It's a brave man who tackles a Fred McDowell song but Slim takes hold of "Everybody's Down On Me" and injects it with just the right amount of soul, turning it into a spot-on homage to his hero by just hinting at Fred's guitar style. The surprise of the album comes when he transforms Laura Nyro's 60s pop hit "And When I Die" into a weather-beaten, wind-blown blues holler - barking out lyrics like a dust bowl refugee accompanied only by occasional blasts of Sonny Terry type harmonica.
Then there's the knocked out rhumba rhythms of "You're The One I Need". This is one of the strongest tracks here thanks to Slim's hooting harmonica solo and some of his most inspired lyrics. Actually he's written some damn good material for this CD ranging from the political "Those Bloody Burmese Blues" and the sad song of estrangement "Dad In The Distance" with it's aching, soul filled bottleneck to the self-pitying "I've Got A Tooth Ache" which is punctuated by thrilling drill-like stabs from the piercing electric slide dobro. I particularly go for his punchy attacking Johnny Winter style guitar on "Archetypal Blues Number 2" with it's full blown bawling vocals singing the praises of his heroes Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Mississippi Fred McDowell, John Lee Hooker - "most of my heroes are dead", he sighs ruefully before slashing out another salvo of succulent slide.
Watermelon Slim's last two CDs are spectacular and guess what? This one is too!
Review Date: September 2008