Blues Bytes – Graham Clarke

Thank You,  Blues Bytes & Graham Clarke for this great review!

Watermelon Slim – Church of the Blues

I’ve missed the last couple of albums from Watermelon Slim, so I was glad to see a copy of his latest release, Church Of The Blues (NorthernBlues Music) sitting in my mailbox recently.  Granted, Slim’s gnarled and weathered vocal style may be an acquired taste for some, but it’s a perfect fit for his original songs, which are truly original songs from an true blues original, and they breathe new life into old familiar favorites when he takes them on.  He’s also a first rate slide guitarist and harmonica player, and I always just gotten a kick out of his recordings.

This enjoyable new set includes fourteen song, seven Slim originals and seven interesting covers, and features a great set of guest musicians…..guitarists Bob Margolin, Joe Louis Walker, Albert Castiglia, and Nick Schnebelen, along with contributing vocalists Sherman Holmes and John Nemeth.

A few of the tunes take a hard luck at current affairs, such as Tom McFarland’s “Tax Man Blues” (a lament fitting for most any era), and three Slim originals – “ Post-Modern Blues,” a pointed look at the current possessions-obsessed world, “Mni Wiconi – The Water Song,” which chides man for his wasteful ways, and “Charlottesville (Blues For My Nation),” which laments the recent the 2017 tragedy in Virginia.

“St. Peter’s Ledger,” from Ron L. Meadors, finds Slim seeking assurance that he’s on the road to salvation, not damnation, and his cover of Muddy Waters’ “Gypsy Woman,” which features Margolin’s slide guitar teamed with Slim on harp, is excellent.  Margolin also appears on a cool cover of Lee Dorsey’s (via Allen Toussaint) “Get Out of My Life Woman,” with Slim being joined on vocals by Nemeth and Holmes.  A funky swinging cover of Gene Barge’s “Me And My Woman,” showcases Castiglia on guitar and Slim wailing away on harp.

Slim also tackles the Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning,” giving it more of a country blues feel with his soaring slide guitar.  On Mississippi Fred McDowell’s droning “61 Highway,” Slim shares the spotlight with his regular bandmates, John Allouise (bass) and Brian Wells (drums), while Castiglia joins in again on guitar for a wild take (is there any other kind) on J.B. Hutto’s “Too Much Alcohol.”  The last two Slim originals are “The Ole 1-4-5,” which has that country bluesy feel that was prevalent on some of Slim’s early 2010’s releases, and also features his former guitarist Ike Lamb.  The acapella “Holler  #4,” is just Slim, well, hollering the blues as only he can, accompanied by a percussive stomp and his plaintive harmonica.

Church Of The Blues is probably my favorite Watermelon Slim release to date.  This set seems to capture the essence of the man’s music and what makes him tick more than any other I’ve heard.  His fans will love it, and he might even earn a few new ones in the process.