A lot of time I find myself loading up the juke box with up tempo swing-style blues. What the heck? It gets people moving; they dance, have a good time and get thirsty. When people get thirsty they want to get something to drink. When they want something to drink, my bartenders sell product, make tips and everyone goes home happy.
But every so often I find myself in the mood for some serious old school blues and my wish has been answered with the release of two dynamite CDs. I’ve recently reviewed one of the CDs, (see my review of Delta Time here) and now I’ve had a chance to sample Big Walter’s new release Root Walking: American Blues & Roots.
Man, what a voice, what a collection, and if you’re lucky enough to find a copy of this little gem, grab it quick.
But listen to the Professor, this is not the kind of CD you pop into the player and forget it. You won’t be dancing around the room forgetting your cares and woes. No, this is a sipping album, the kind you sit down and listen to and find yourself drawn into the world of these stories.
Some of the lyrics go back to the 1700s; part of an oral tradition handed down generation to generation. Others are contemporary stories and they all go to show how the story of one of us is the story of all of us. Derrick Big Walker, whose roots include Native and African American as well as Irish, has found a way to meld these musical styles together and create a unique sound.
The album kicks off with “It’s Hard,” just a little reminder that life is not always easy, but love can help you make it through in one piece. Next up is “Raise A Ruckus” from poetry written in the 1700s. Walker’s vocals and harp drive the song hard. Another song with lyrics from the 1700s follows, “Wild Black Bill.” It’s a slower driving number with power contained just under Stevie Klasson’s slide guitar.
“Run Nigri Run” moves us into the 1800s with the story of a runaway and the sheriff that’s chasing him. Walker then adapts more poetry from the 1800s to create “The Hypocrite Blues.” The next song is a contemporary number based on Walker’s own experiences on tour. “Can’t Take No Train” once again features Klasson’s exciting guitar work.
While the Professor doesn’t have a favorite song, I do have a number of songs I consider to be among my favorites. “Midnight Special” sung most famously by Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly is one of those songs. I’ve collected a number of versions of the song and I’m delighted to add Walker’s version to that collection. His harp playing is crisp and Klasson and bass player Surjo Benigh are in good form. Fredrik Hellberg’s drums are stripped down and the backup vocals add a nice gospel flavor to the side.
We’re back to the 1700s with “You Got A Home In That Rock,” a spiritual designed to uplift the poor with promises of another world. “Papa Guede” gives us a little Caribbean flavor mixed with the Southern Roots music. A little voodoo magic for the darkness. A good follow up is “Devil’s Cloth” that makes the most out of Walker’s deep rumbling voice.
The song “Thirteenth Full Moon” is a tribute to musician Olle Boson who died on December 30, 2009. It also invokes the superstition of the Blue Moon bringing evil onto the world. “Slave” ends the CD with some of Walker’s best poetry.
“Root Walking: American Blues & Roots” is a solid album, even though its mix of musical styles may make it one of those records you sip and savor by yourself.
In the meantime, I’m going to get back to work. There’s some thirsty people out there.
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