–UNDER THE RADAR RECOMMENDATION –
JARKKA RISSANEN TONAL BOX
Trimmed And Burning
Blue North Records
To get an idea of where Finnish roots veteran Jarkka Rissanen is going on the bold and distinctive Trimmed And Burning, start with the dedication. With gratitude to Son House and Blind Willie Johnson. With a cosmopolitan approach not unlike that of Ry Cooder, multi-instrumentalist Rissanen, drummer/percussionist Jussi Kettunen and tuba player/bassist Jorma Välimäki mine the deep well of American blues and folk music traditions. That includes songs associated with House (“Grinnin’ In Your Face”), Johnson (“Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning”) or both (“John The Revelator”). Pair that with “Why Don’t You Live So God Can Use You?” (famously recorded by Muddy Waters) and the Sister Rosetta Tharpe gem “Up Above My Head” and it’s plain to see there’s something spiritual going on here. Props must go to the Finnish trio for freely adapting these traditionals to suit their own eclectic style. That can include the heavy, almost psychedelic thump we hear on the album opener “Keep Your Hand On The Plow,” the pleasingly laid-back New Orleans-style interpretation of “Up Above My Head” or the octavized guitars that echo the two voices – one male, one female – heard on the original recording of “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning.” Meanwhile, their version of “Why Don’t You Live So God Can Use You?” chugs along with the clackety-clack of a freight train cutting through Louisiana farmland. Refreshingly unconventional. – VA
SONG PICK: “Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying”
Spoonful Of Gold – Blues For Willie
Ian Parker stumbled upon the inspiration for Spoonful Of Gold – Blues For Willie three summers ago at a Parisian bookshop. The Willie Dixon biography I Am The Blues led him to look beyond “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Little Red Rooster” and dive deeper into the canon of the blues’ most prolific and celebrated songwriter. Parker, a native of Birmingham, England, has often been rather singer-songwriterly himself, known as much for his incisive lyrics and sensitive vocal delivery as for blasting out riffs on his Stratocaster. Spoonful Of Gold allows him to reassert himself as a bluesman. The potent opening salvo on “Evil” announces an album with plenty of punch, drenched in blues, that nevertheless refuses to imitate. Rather than adhere slavishly to the original “Back Door Man” or “I Just Want To Make Love To You” – songs every blues fan has heard dozens of times – Parker and band apply their unique gifts to create contemporary versions that stand on their own. He also includes lesser-known Dixon gems like “Mighty Earthquake and Hurricane” and “Weak Brain, Narrow Mind” that will inevitably lead listeners to seek out the originals. A worthy tribute. – VA
SONG PICK: “My Love Will Never Die”
Jane Lee Hooker live @ Spirit of 66
Words: Vincent Abbate / Photos: Dirk Schumacher
Is there a more thrilling experience in the blues right now than Jane Lee Hooker?
Honestly, I’d be hard-pressed to think of one.
Jane Lee Hooker is like a ride on the world’s fastest rollercoaster. Five gals from New York City who run on pure adrenaline. They take decades-old classics like “Shake For Me” and “Mean Town Blues” and “Mannish Boy” and make you feel like you’ve never heard them before.
And they don’t care about sticking to any one thing. They are blues and they are punk and they are southern and they are straight-up rock and roll. Just two albums into their recording career – last year’s Spiritus following on the heels of the 2016 debut No B! – these five troublemakers from NYC have already established themselves as a force to be reckoned with.
Still Fierce and Free
An Interview with Watermelon Slim (Pt. 2)
Words by Vincent Abbate / Photos by Mike Latschislaw
(Click here for Part 1 of the interview.)
“Is any part of what you’re telling me off the record?”
I really had to ask, because Watermelon Slim wasn’t using a filter. He was sharing the most intimate details of his life – stuff you might tell your closest friend in confidence – though I’d never spoken with him before apart from a brief exchange at a blues festival ten years prior.
No. Every word of our interview was fit for print as far as Slim was concerned. When you have given up all hope of commercial success and accepted physical decline as a fact of life, you stop holding back.
“I’m an old man. I’m not in the greatest of health. I dance around it and put on a pretty good front, but…”