Alabama Slim invites you into The Parlor, listen closely to appreciate the music. It’s amazing that the genius of Alabama Slim has, until recently, flown below the world’s blues radar. Slim is 82 years old in March and his experiences in the juke joints in the 50s and 60s has, inevitably, honed his skills; a cousin of Freddie King, their Hurricane Katrina escapades were set to music on the 2007 album, The Mighty Flood with King’s guitar and Slim’s wonderful blues vocals painting pictures of that never to be forgotten time.
Well now we all have the chance to appreciate this amazing, genuine bluesman as he is about to release his third album called The Parlor; I’ve listened to this non stop since I was privileged to hear a pre-release copy. Imagine an electric Son House with a healthy dash of John Lee and a totally new, old blues is now accessible. Add in the talents of Little Freddie King backing Slim’s guitar and vocals, with Ardie Dean on the drums…put them in a studio (The Parlor) and press record…four hours later they produced one of the most authentic blues albums in recent years. (The bass of Matt Patton and the keyboards of Jimbo Mathus were added later.)
The musical treats start with Hot Foot that immediately brings freshness to the traditional blues that Slim and the song is steeped in…period guitar, swinging bass and drums backing that voice: I defy anyone not to tap along and revel in the sounds… People will inevitably bring BB, JL into the picture and I’ve already added Son House but it is all Slim and Freddie and is just great.
Freddie’s Voodoo Boogie is just that; a boogie of quality with spoken vocals and even the odd missed string adds to the authenticity and beauty of this song. More blues without frills on the slow shuffle of Rob Me Without A Gun with the benefit of Slim’s proper singing voice and a guitar solo that is a mosquito’s tweeter (!) from perfection and simple washes of organ developing the background colour. Rock With Me Mamma is another well-worn blues trope that gets a Slim and Freddie update and despite the familiarity of the melodies, it is still great reading.
All Night Long follows the pattern but, yet again, I can forgive these guys anything as they upcycle the basics into a fresh design and every note needs to be listened to, to get the simple complexity. Forty Jive has more great backing as Slim speaks the brilliant lyrics…pay attention and smile. Midnight Rider (not that one) uses the train rolling beat to great effect and an inventive bass line that carries it along with the brushed snare and the vocals that actually have a conversion with the listener and superb guitar solo of chords and pick. Rock Me Baby is where rock ’n’ roll meets the blues and shows how they were meant for each other…love it! Someday Baby rolls along and draws you in with its comfortable familiarity that is all-new…the picked solo is a delight too.
The final track, Down In The Bottom, wraps up this blues lesson with a show of pure genius of the two guitarists painting every phrase with some stark and beautiful playing.
On first listen, this album may not seem to have anything new to offer…but careful repeated listens will unveil a goldmine full of blues traditions given a lovely twist and also reveal a talent that should have been on vinyl for 50 years, not just a few. It’s ten tracks come in at just thirty minutes…but that is the only fault I can find.
It’s an album of paradox: it’s not new but is so very new at the same time…that sounds daft but, give it a listen, buy it and you will see what I mean.
Bluesdoodles rating: 5 Doodle Paws; a stupendous blues record for blues purists and for music lovers everywhere.
1. Hot Foot
2. Freddie’s Voodoo Boogie
3. Rob Me Without A Gun
4. Rock With Me Mamma
5. All Night Long
6. Forty Jive
7. Midnight Rider
8. Rock Me Baby
9. Someday Baby
(The iTunes run on track took me back to the early seventies with the psyche rock of The Alan Bown Set on the track Thru The Night.)