Sunday, July 20, 2014
Bukka White - Memphis Hot Shots
The set list is a predictable mix of White’s “hits” as well as ‘standards’ sifted through the Buddha-smiling raconteur’s improvisatory sieve. White called his extemporaneous creations “sky songs,” a phrase touching on his tendency to pluck ad-lib verses and chords from out of thin air. The band responds to his unscripted anecdotal ditties with varying efficacy. The most startling collision occurs early on White’s signature “Aberdeen, Mississippi Blues,” a train wreck on the surface that reveals an odd syllogistic solidarity within the tangled wreckage. Here it almost sounds as if Bukka layed down his vocal and guitar tracks first and the band overdubbed their parts on top days later with the tape decks set to the wrong speed. Chugging backbeat drums, slapping bass and wailing harmonica approximate a speeding locomotive while White resolutely rides a completely different rail. As incongruous as the fit is there are improbable moments where everything synchs up and the effect is electrifying.
The band sits out on a handful of tracks too, like the dour “Drifting Blues” and harrowing “(Brand New) Decoration Blues” ideal vehicles for White’s gravelly bark and hard-strumming fret-play. On the latter he refurbishes the habitual lyrics with a string of virginal verses, slapping his surname on the song credit to boot. With “Give Me An Old, Old Lady” White acquiesces to his band, whooping and grooving on a stomping rock beat and rolling out the lyric: “Got an old lady, sittin’ in my bed, when I come ‘round, she gonna rub my head…” without the least bit of bashfulness. White’s Pre-War sides for Vocalion are a benchmark of his career (and arguably Pre-War blues in general), but this Blue Horizon set makes for a very pleasing detour and anomaly. One lingering question: is that Bukka in the spacesuit or some defacto substitute?
(review by Bagatellen).