Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – a wonderful album filled with woodland promise and seriously delicious resonator guitar tones and vocals.
The first surprise awaiting me on receiving this album was that The Curse of KK Hammond is not a band: she is actually a London born singer/songwriter who plays slide guitar on a range of resonator guitars…I love her already. I love her, even more, when I learn that she names her guitars with suitably descriptive titles that match their sound…a customised steel National called Dark Sister, a Mule steel tricone called Swamp Bitch a hollow Mulecaster steel called Chainsaw. Add to that her influences are centred on the Delta Blues players of the 1930s and the portents are very good indeed
I am delighted to report that those sentiments apply to this new release as, once again, ED proves he is a smartarse! He plays everything himself (including drums, apart from three tracks) and, once again, fills me with envy as he effortless plays them all and then they’re stitched together seamlessly to make a strong and varied album.
Kris (that’s what one of the Ks stands for) also endears herself to me with her outlook on life: a self-professed hermit living in an isolated spot in the woods, where she enjoys exploring the wilderness surrounding her home to seek inspiration for her songwriting…with horses too.
The Ballad of Blue Docherty tells a tale of a ‘Gator’s revenge on the titular character…sort of amusing even if Blue meets a rather nasty end. Here we get the first indication of KK’s bottleneck and picking skills and (on this track) an angelic clarity to a voice and the overdub harmonies are spot on…but it’s the slide work that grabbed and held me. It’s blues, but with an ethereal touch, despite the subject matter.
In The Pines is the glorious Lead Belly song: or at least he is usually credited with it but its true origin is unknown and that it harks back to at least the 1870s. Also known as Where Did You Sleep Last Night or My Girl it’s one of those examples of a player taking two traditional songs and moulding them together to form something new. With multiple versions already in my possession (from the barking mad Blood on the Saddle to Sandi Thom who covered it on an album that featured Joe Bonamassa) KK needs to bring something different to party to make it stand out…and by God she does: the tone she coaxes out of the guitar is cleverly layered with overdubs (but not too many) and the tone is just right as are her vocals. This is a very good interpretation of a classic that has a different feel whilst holding the original scope…and with the slide solo (that should have lasted two hours) it is an enigmatic and enthralling reading.
Devil’s Kin Blues: the lyrics are clever and tongue in cheek…literally, as she sings “I tried to kiss the devil where the sun don’t shine.” Not many lyricists use the term “bad egg” either but it all works here. The tempo is suitably slow, stomped and her voice somehow sounds menacingly angelic. It is a very, very good song from every angle. The six-minute running time allows a couple of slide pieces…just not enough!
The Ballad of Lampshade Ed features another enigmatic blues artist, who is one person, not a duo, David and the Devil. Check out his King of the Swamp release to be regaled by great songs like I Wish I Was a Frog! The two co-wrote this “murder ballad”, inspired by the story of Ed Gein, whose relationship with his overbearing, religious mother was the basis for the character of Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre…and you should see the video! The twosome brings a toe-tapping rhythm, a sing-a-long chorus and more lovely guitar tones to a tale of horror; KK’s semi-spoken approach to the verses add to the atmosphere.
The final track, Graveyard Blues, isn’t the John Lee Hooker one although it does sound like it was written on a sharecropper’s back porch. The guitars are wonderful and the vocal harmonies again sound sweet and effective while imparting wisdom such as “living with your foot in my grave” or “You cut my throat with your smile but you no longer fool me.”
At the first listen to this EP, you’d be forgiven for thinking it may benefit from more changes of pace…but listen again, listen deeper and this lady has so much to offer as her skills on the various resonators attest. The fascination for alligators is slightly unusual and her new tattoo of said antediluvian creature is frighteningly realistic…but everyone should have a hobby!
The good news is that KK is or should be soon working on a full-length album…I for one am waiting with eager anticipation and I can think of loads of blues classics that she could do fascinating interpretations of, as well as some originals.
At first listen to this EP, you’d be forgiven for thinking it may benefit from more changes of pace…but listen again, listen deeper and this lady has so much to offer as her skills on the various resonators attest. The fascination for alligators is slightly unusual and her new tattoo of said antediluvian creature is frighteningly realistic…but everyone should have a hobby!
The good news is that KK is or should be soon working on a full length album…I for one am waiting with eager anticipation and I can think of loads of blues classics that she could do fascinating interpretations of, as well as some originals.
The Ballad of Blue Docherty
In The Pines
Devil’s Kin Blues
The Ballad of Lampshade Ed
(iTunes took me to the days of sampler records and my treasured Purple People which gathered some very varied and eclectic artists together under the Purple Label…Jon Pertwee doing the Dr Who theme anyone? No, me neither but Curtiss Maldoon is always worth lending an ear and his Man From Afghanistan is a soft rock wonder.)