Since the first of the year, I’ve been very fortunate to make the acquaintance of several new artists and publicists who have been bringing me some great music to sample, review, and play. It’s been a great feeling discovering new talent and rediscovering others that had fallen off my radar for one reason or another.
One of those artists is Big Bill Morganfield, whom I have always enjoyed, but for some reason, only had one or two of his albums on my shelf. I guess he doesn’t get the big splashy releases at this time, and I just lost focus.
Fortunately, a new supplier of great music to Time For The Blues sent me a nice collection of CDs and the very first one out of the box was Morganfield’s release on Black Shuck Records, Bloodstains On The Wall. It’s a fascinating album, at times very dark and brooding, and other times light, almost joyous, and one song that mixes a couple of genres to create an unusual approach to the blues.
I’ve already earmarked several songs for play on Time For The Blues, so let’s take a look at the album in its entirety.
The brooding Lost Without You starts the album with a dark feel. Morganfield’s voice drops into his lowest register at times and the slow deliberate nature of the music brings out the deepest emotions one can feel.
The first of two Willie Dixon songs featured on the album, I Don’t Know Why, brings a taste of swing to the disc with some sweet harp. Morganfield is having a great time on this song and I feel this one could get some extended air play. Fun song!
The first of four songs written by Morganfield is next. When You Lose Someone You Love is slow and sweet and utilizes a nice piano base for the song. This is a very old-school sounding number and Morganfield wrings all of the emotion out of it.
He follows up with the Delta influenced Too Much. The orchestration is stripped down, sounds like guitar, bass, and harp in addition to the vocals. The song kind of has that feel of family and friends jamming on the front porch – everybody pretty much takes a turn and the song is sweeter because of it.
Help Someone is the second song written by Morganfield and it has a driving up tempo boogie feel. This one is pure roadhouse and is a lot of fun with just enough social message to push the song. I like this one a lot.
With a title like, Blood Stains On The Wall, don’t expect a gentle love song. The song starts out with the loneliest of feelings and Morganfield paints a picture straight out of the headlines or a Jim Thompson novel. The bottom has dropped out for the singer and it’s impossible to miss the sense of worry and dread that has come over him. Powerful, and maybe a little upsetting for some listeners.
The third Morganfield penned number is Can’t Call Her Name. This one picks up your spirits after the darkness of the previous title. The harp is sweet and the song swings. This one could get a lot of air play as well and I think it’s got to be a killer when he does it live.
He keeps the spirit like with the classic Wake Up Baby. I’ve heard a number of country artists and more than a few blues artists perform this fun number. Oh, the lies they tell when they stray, and the ones we’ll believe at first…
Keep On Loving Me is an Otis Rush number and the use of the organ is a nice touch. The pace is quick but not overpowering and Morganfield’s voice is at the top of his game. This one should make most blues fans very happy.
The second Willie Dixon tune is the seminal I Am The Blues. This classic tune gets a solid treatment from Morganfield and company. Dixon’s words and music are still powerful especially when performed by those who have a right to make that statement. Morganfield doesn’t sing so much as he invokes the spirits and the band feels inspired to perform at a higher level.
Jimmy McCracklin’s Help The Bear is a real crowd pleaser. The mixture of music with Morganfield’s smiling delivery makes for a winning combination. I love the boogie piano and this song just rocks!
The last song on the album is a Morgafield number written for the television show Shots Fired. Hold Me Baby is a country style blues number with 21st Century effects giving it an unusual feel. You can hear the blues deeply beneath the pyrotechnics and hip-hop production. I’m going to have to listen to this one a few times to see if it grows on me. By the way, the television show features Sanaa Lathan, Stephan James, Helen Hunt, and Richard Dreyfuss. It’s scheduled to make its debut in late March of 2017.
Overall, I felt Bloodstains On The Wall is a very strong effort by a master bluesman. Morganfield is still experimenting with the genre while acknowledging the past. He knows what his audience wants to hear, and while he delivers that, he also finds ways to push the barriers a little to see what else he can find.
I know I don’t have to encourage you to look for his previous releases – you probably have a few in your collection already – and he’s one of those names that if you see him coming anywhere near you, the tickets disappear in a flash. But just in case you want to find out more about the man, please check him out at http://www.bigbillmorganfield.org/.