Les Copeland is best known as a major exponent of the resonator guitar, as a bottleneck player, and as a blues writer of original materials that dance solidly within the genre while peeking over the fence…when he isn't folkifying, that is, as on I'm the Little One. Don't Let the Devil In, however, is never a firebreather but rather the kind of CD you want a cool fifth and a warm afternoon for. With elements of Kelly Joe Phelps, Hot Tuna, Joanne Kelly, Michael Hurley, base-most Grateful Dead, doses of the old Youngbloods solo LPs, and a lotta lotta lotta roots, Copeland's a relic of bygone times, the sort of player-writer one would have heard on a rickety porch while traipsing down to Sunday services at the backcountry chapel.
On the disc tray photo, he's playing a Herb Ellis guitar, and that may at first sound a tad incongruous, but the guy incorporates a rich background in what he does. The solo in Wet Paper Bag perfectly demonstrates that, the sort of lead Ellis would've spun out while sitting in with Barney Kessell. And when the instrumental Ry Cooder slides out of the speakers, you'll understand perfectly why the song is titled as it is. On only a third of this release is Copeland accompanied (by the legendary Honeyboy Edwards and Earwig label prezdawg Michael Frank), otherwise working as singleton for an intimate feel that's nonetheless wide open. Then the title cut embraces a dark descending chord composition sounding like a tune that got lost on the cutting room floor during the making of Nick Drake's cloudy Pink Moon.
Canada sure as hell knows its grit from its sunflowers when it comes to roots music, and Copeland, issuing from a town Natively named for the grizzly bear (Kelowna), understands when to growl and when to rumble while treading an earthy and sometimes ribald course in his lyrics. He more frequently, though, contemplates the wistful and melancholic in tunes like Distant Train, leaning back in a sigh and a memory. But, oh sweet Jesus, that playing! Without ever requiring a single pedal or blaring volume, it's riveting as hell and will send newbies and pros alike scampering to the masters once more for re-acquaintance with Jurassic elements that never grow old but are all too readily ignored.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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