Old Gray Mule's new album "Like a Apple on a Tree" is where I'm headed to and I do apologize for taking the long-a-bout way of getting there. This poppin' fresh collection comes on the heels of OGM's second album, "Forty Nickels for a Bag of Chips" which C.R. Humphrey recorded with drummer Kinney Kimbrough at Delta Recording Services in Como, Miss. .
"Like a Apple on a Tree" continues with the food metaphors, for reasons that I'm not privy to. I did find out that the album title "Forty Nickels for a Bag of Chips" comes from Jon Spencer/ RL Burnside's collaborative album "A Ass Pocket of Whiskey" at one point Spencer is heard asking Burnside for "forty nickels for a bag of chips"
I also perused a review of "Forty Nickels for a Bag of Chips" written by Jim Caligiuri of the alternative weekly, Austin Chronicle. Caligiuri sounds like he's a contrarian and I realize that's a fashionable thing to be in the People's Republic of Austin.
He sums up the album by stating "One could argue whether this (the unrehearsed live takes) makes the results authentic or wankerific, only 10 tunes of repetitive guitar and drum riffs sans vocals settle the score by growing tiresome about halfway through"
Kudos to Jimmy for working "wankerific" in there, probably been saving that one up since he stumbled upon it in the Hipster's Dictionary. Caligiuri sounds like a man who would wander into a juke joint and then complain to the management about the music being too loud.
The repetitiveness is inherent in the North Mississippi hill country blues, it's a drone based rhythm that elevates the listeners (or preferably dancers) into a trance like state of bliss. It's the "Burnside Style" Mr. Jones, or maybe you didn't get that memo?
As for "Forty Nickels for a Bag of Chips" making a damn good soundtrack for the movie adaptation of a Larry Brown novel, my choice would be his unpublished manuscript about a man-eating bear terrorizing Yellowstone Park. Starring Rutger Hauer with a shot gun... of course!
The problem with alternative weekly music writers is that they suffer from attention deficit disorder and they tend to take on the solemn tones of folklorist, ethnomusicologist and archivist whenever they broach the subject of blues music. (Austin Powell of the Austin Chronicle being an exception to the rule)
We have Alan Lomax, John Hammond Sr. and probably John Hammond Jr. to blame for all that. "It's the blues, fellas it's not the solemnities of Epiphany and Ascension" Climb on off your high horse and hit the dance floor, mufuggers
Let's pop 20 D Energizers in the boombox and give "Like a Apple on a Tree" a turn.
Come On In – (RL Burnside cover) – featuring: Cedric Burnside - drums and vocals, CR Humphrey - guitar C.R. does what he does best... lays down some brawny riffs with his beefed up Squire Telecaster. Cedric (RL Burnside's grandson) is a propulsive and dynamic drummer, who for my money is one of the best regardless of genres. This is the title track off RL's 1998 album. It's-a-meaty, beaty, big and bouncy.
Cotton Patch Disco – featuring: Snooks La Vie - harmonica and vocals, CR Humphrey - guitar and bass, Lightnin Malcolm - drums An intriguing track for sure, Snooks, the former lead singer for The Hiptones (who a writer described as "formidable - an oasis in an R&B drought called Australia") added his vocals and harmonica to the backing track all the way from Adelaide, SA, Australia. You'd think he was in studio, C.R.'s ties it together with some low key but gritty licks and that's some solid work on the drum kit by guitar virtuoso Lightnin Malcolm.
Blue Front – featuring: CR Humphrey - guitar, Jason ‘JJ’ Wilburn - drums A dose of Bentonia blues for ya' The song title refers to The Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia MS., a historic cinder block juke joint on the Mississippi Blues Trail. It's owned by blues musician Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. Nice meaty tones from C.R.'s self described Franken-Tele, or as C.R. puts it, "a telecaster I built out of parts" What parts? different parts!.... parts is parts.
Sexy Mufuggin Dance Party – featuring: CR Humphrey - guitar and bass, Lightnin Malcolm - drums A rockin' Memphis style tune, C.R. does double duty on this track and he still works in a nice impression of Duck Dunn on bass, if this don't make you dance, then you must've been declared dead. It's a tune that's tailor made for some Sugarfoot Hustlin'
Break For Me – featuring: Lightnin Malcolm - vocals, CR Humphrey - guitars, Jason ‘JJ’ Wilburn - drums Lightnin hands off the drum sticks to JJ Wilburn, this songs rolls out with a swagger that Jim Caligiuri would probably find downright intimidating. Someone should hawk this song to Kurt Sutter for the Sons of Anarchy. Great vocals from Lightnin and C.R.'s Squire Telecaster spits out hot chords like an Ak-47 spits out spent shells.
Thanksgiving – featuring: CR Humphrey - guitar and bass, Cedric Burnside - drums I ain't going to lie to you, when Cedric plays the drums I get goosebumps. C.R. breaks out the amazing Guitbass again (my apologies to Junior Brown) this has all the uneasy energy of Thanksgiving in the Eastern New Mexico oil patch, where half of the guests are in the bathroom shooting meth and the rest are working on each others last nerve. "Pass me them rolls, you son of a bitch"
Someday Baby – (RL Burnside cover) – featuring: CW Ayon - drums and vocals, CR Humphrey - guitar From R.L. Burnside's A Bothered Mind album, it's a great song and my homeboy CW Ayon does it justice, Northern Mississippi Hill country blues meets Rio Grande Valley blues. A tip of the hat to CW, this certainly isn't an easy song to sing. That's some tuff guitar from C.R., that's tuff as in "cool, in a rugged wrong-side-of-the-tracks way" (thank you S.E. Hinton)
Issaquena – featuring: CR Humphrey - guitar and bass, Lightnin Malcolm - drums This song has kicked around a bit, it was also included on the "Forty Nickels" album and there may be another version out there. Issaquena County, Ms. the birthplace of Muddy Waters, more folks are stuck in a one mile stretch of Los Angeles freeway traffic than live in the entire county (1,400) For some reason this song reminds me of Jimi Hendrix's Peace in Mississippi, maybe it's the geetar.
Standin There Cryin’ – featuring: Snooks La Vie - harmonica and vocals, CR Humphrey - guitars, Dave Sims, Jr - drums Wicked verging on evil vocals from Snooks, there's an underlying sense of malice to this song that would make it perfect for the motion picture adaptation of Frank Bill's "Crimes in Southern Indiana Stories" starring Rutger Hauer with a shotgun.... of course! "Pulled the hammer back and she said please don't kill me baby"
Banda de Gypsies – featuring: CR Humphrey - guitar, CW Ayon - drums Jimi Hendrix's Machine Gun, in a chingon Hill Country style. "Well, I pick up my axe and fight like a farmer, but I play guitar like a gawd dang Texas Ranger" never could understand what Jimi was singing. You can always tell just how good a guitarist is by how well he plays Hendrix. C.R. passes muster and then some, CW when he's not having to play drums, guitar and sing all at the same time, is a bad ass drummer.
I don't know about ya'll, but I'm still hungry for more... but damn! if my D-cells haven't run out of juice, before I head down to Dollar Tree to demand 20 D-Energizers mufuggers! let me wrap this up.
Now we've come full circle, with the hill country blues the past is every bit as important as the present. A new generation of bluesmen have sprouted forth from the flood plains, hill country and beyond. Youngbloods ready, able and worthy of carrying on the legacy of R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough
Never mind Muscle Shoals, the swampers are pickin' you up when you're feelin' blue, right in Central Texas. Old Gray Mule's "Like a Apple on a Tree" is top effort for what the Austin Chronicle calls "Mississippi thunder and Lightnin’ with Lockhart shit-kickers" These are songs ready made for a night on Greasy Street, but what would they know about that?
Oral tradition was vital to the spread of the blues in the 1930s, and that still hasn't changed. Facebook, Twitter and the internet are nothing more than an updated version of "word of mouth" Put these words in your mouth, go forth and spread the gospel.
Old Gray Mule is C.R. Humphrey of Lockhart, Tx. "BBQ capital of the World!"
Old Gray Mule is NOW ACCEPTING PRE-ORDERS
Like a Apple on a Tree is available for purchase and download right now! Hard copies won't be out until Nov. 9th. Preview tracks and pre-order at http//www.oldgraymule.com/ or go to Old Gray Mule's Facebook page and click on the new album link.