John Black doesn't just have soul, he's dripping with it, like the bayou sweat off that ghostly cratered disc in the sky on a hothouse summer's night. This CD is a smoky cross-collateration of blues, rock, and soul that's so good it's eerie, much like the guitar vividly haunting The Moon Blues, which first riveted me on Vol. 3 of the Yellow Dog Label sampler. Hearing its twisted and reverberating lines sent a shiver up my spine that just got goosebumpier as the guy sang, going back to prime Motown years, distinctive, raw while smooth, dragged up from the center of a hunger.
This sort of music just isn't done any more. Black's yowl on the wordless Moanin' preludes the swampy Slipin' and Slidin', the latter song slowly steaming like a mangrove swatch lurking on an Everglades coastline into which a flying saucer or two descend beside an almost Frippian guitar progression (think a delta-fied version of the central section to King Crimson's Starless), completely unexpected and unique. Swamp Thang sets up a primal rhythm in slide guitar with multi-vocals repeating the central lines mesmerically to funky, funky poetry extolling a strangely expressed love situation in lagoon vernacular. There's a good deal of low-down erotic sentiment here, boys and girls, masqued like the old 'copulatin' blues' of yesteryear but evident enough once you pay attention.
There's also, though he restrains it, a strong feel of the Funkadelics' Maggot Brain informing Black's fret-hand, leashed to serve the songs rather than cut loose to solo. Everything bolsters the rhythms and melodies here, not just the guitar. Black played percussion for Miles Davis (you can see him on the Live in Paris DVD) and also wrote for The Master, then sat in with Eminem, Bruce Hornsby, and others. Somewhat eclectic, no?, but, man, when he's in his own element, as he is here, look out! Like much of the Yellow Dog product, there's no completely comfortable category for music like this, work that transcends even the boundaries it intends to settle into.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles