I’ve been sitting on a pile of goodies for months, so these are no longer new releases, but I think you all should know about them. All these artists are from South of the Mason-Dixon line, and no, they’re not country artists…except on certain songs. I’ll dish ‘em out one at a time.
Top of the pile is Gitlo Lee, “Comin’ Out the Hole.” This bluesman’s bio reads like a compendium of all the great blues musicians’ life stories; if I hadn’t listened to the CD, I’d have thought a publicist and a screenwriter concocted it: Okefenokee swamp, turpentine plantation, holy rollin’ parents, a boy crossing the tracks from gospel to blues, famous bluesman sweeping through town, the chitlin circuit, school of hard knocks, 46 years on the road in a van… It does just beg for a documentary. (Hint, hint, Lance!)
Listen to the music and you hear all of that. My personal faves: “Comin’ Out the Hole,” “Ease Out,” and “Joe Brown,” each for different reasons. The title track is a funky declaration of independence with a fierce, rough vocal, “Ease Out” is smooth, rich, soulful (think Clarence Carter, Ben E. King), and “Joe Brown” is instant sing-along material, especially harmony (and if you don’t know a Joe Brown or two, you ain’t worked in the music business).
The blues wouldn’t be the blues without some raunch, and “Coffee” takes that old metaphor (someone stirring coffee in someone’s cup) to the max. I laughed out loud. Lee’s sense of humor is also front and center on “Big Legged Woman” and “Swamp Devil.”
The poignant “That Old Man” shows an unexpected side of Lee, “Give Me a Beer” is the obligatory party song, “Angel” is a syrupy “silky soul” number, and “Ain’t Studdin’ You Baby” takes the CD out rocking. That last one is a turnabout-is-fair-play surprise: this time it’s the man withholding sex because she cheated on him.
Lee wrote all the songs, which amazed me: so many different genres, and most of them sound like you should know them, maybe because tinges of his influences drift through now and then: B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Chicago blues… but also because they’re so well-structured. I don’t know how many of them are autobiographical, but they sure seem like it. If they’re not, this man is one fine actor. Experience makes the music, and 60-odd years of it is behind this CD.
Lee’s playing isn’t complicated; sometimes the guitar sound is primitive, but it’s pure blues, and it’s a relief hearing someone not trying to fit into the music of the moment. The band members are Buckwheat Zydeco vets, with a mile-long string of other credits: Mike Burch on bass, Andrian Boudreaux on keyboards (including a good ol’ Hammond B3), Lee Allen Zeno on bass. Love it: recording engineer David Farrell is listed as part of the band.
Summing it up: real blues from a seasoned “new” artist.
(Louisiana-based Chuckie Productions is Lee’s own label. If you want more info on him, go to: Gitloblues.com)