Lightnin' Malcolm is a rough looking character, someone out of the old E.C. Segar Popeye comic strip, a bulldog who plays stripped-down blues that very occasionally remind one of the spine of early Fleetwood Mac—with elements of Green, Kirwan, and Spencer in varying degrees—but too spare and much too samey to engage in anywhere near the right fashion. In self-labeling his work as 'hill country blues', there is indeed a certain lumpenproletariat aspect to the entire hobo stew of gritty wailing and almost thrashy guitaristics, but I'm afraid there's little meat on the bone, mostly a lot of gaunt 'sturm und drang' that at first attracts and then goes cold.
Some of Malcolm's licks are strong as hell, especially during Stop Fightin' Over Me and elsewhere, but the atmospheres are often almost suffocating, static (the lead cut especially), and repetitive to the point of redundancy. So Many Women, on the other hand, comes on like an old lost Groundhogs cut, as Hooker-ine as T.S. McPhee himself would craft, crashing and burning incandescently, the howl and pyrotechnics of a spectacular damnation, contours shaped from cut glass. If the entire CD would've been based on this mode, I'd be speaking much differently here.
At times, there's also just a bit too much of the pretensions of Popa Chubby as well (Guilty Man, etc.), occasionally a rap-inflected side tone (rap don't work well wit' da blues, y'all), and then some Motown that's much too white to be carried off (Precious Jewel). So, yeah, a few REALLY good cuts but mostly dross. My guess? Lightnin' Malcolm needs to spend a lot more time in the woodshed, in the swamp, and with a good multi-disc collection of down-home blues smothering in the stank of the eldest of days. There's a hell of a lot more to the blues than surface attitude.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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