FAME Review: Mark 'Muleman' Massey - One Step Ahead of the Blues
Mark 'Muleman' Massey - One Step Ahead of the Blues

One Step Ahead of the Blues

Mark 'Muleman' Massey

Ice House Records - IHR9500

Available from CD Universe.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

When you talk about the mean streets, make sure you pay your respects to Mark 'Muleman' Massey 'cause he used to run the byways and shadows, and you don't want no mess with that kind of cat, that's for sure. He was doing time two dimes ago after running drugs and shooting people and, for reasons he can't quite explain, one day walked up to a jailbird playing a gee-tar, a gent who asked him to join the prison band. The moment that axe twangler said the word 'music', Massey's mind and life changed. No, seriously, it CHANGED, and, from that day forward, music was his life, a lit fire suddenly erupting that has yet to abate and most likely never will. Just goes to show that some of us find ourselves by the strangest avenues.

Massey was at the infamous and much written about, in music and elsewhere, Parchman Prison, and when the Mississippi Blues Trail project laid its 113th historical marker, coincidentally enough right at Parchman's doorstep, guess whose name was on it? Yep, Massey's. He joined Bukka White, Sonny Boy Williamson, and a bouillabaisse of famous others. You don't get that honor for no reason, y'all, but when you see Muleman's face scrunched up on the cover shot, you think "Oh geez, that IS a bad motherfucker…I'm the hell outta here!"…though when you lay an ear to his soulful, drivin', impassioned voice, you turn on your heel, pay the cover charge, and sit down for a night of great folk-soul blues.

In the Hole is a really choice cut, groovin' like mad, Massey singing like he goddamn means it, but with a wry grin of inside knowledge, while Waiting on the Help to Arrive is a Jesus song even atheists can get behind, street gospel with a distinctly proletarian bent. Don Nix co-pro'ed the disc and wrote and co-wrote a bunch of songs, so there's a good deal of that estimable's handiwork all over the CD, fitting hand in glove with Massey's wont. I want to Sing, one of Nix's comps, carries the old 'Stoneground at the Fillmore' trademark with a touch of Robert Palmer. She's Hongry, another Nix track, is a hoot, blues in the classic vein, the sort of thing only a Mark Massey or a Duke Robillard could bring off so well (okay, Elvin Bishop too, I hafta say). When you want to work up a good sweat rousting about with the band and frontman but just ain't into the psychedelic side of the house, more in the mood for good gritty down home blues sans pretension, this is the weekend gig you've been waiting for.

Track List:

  • One Step Ahead of the Blues (Nix / Wall)
  • She's Not Mine Anymore (Mark Massey)
  • Plastic Flowers (Don Nix)
  • In the Hole (Massey / Holly)
  • Waiting on the Help to Arrive (Don Nix)
  • Silly Crazy (Massey / Holly)
  • Blind, Crippled and Crazy (Hodges / Malone / Carter)
  • Double Trouble (Mark Massey)
  • I Want to Sing (Don Nix)
  • She's Hongry (Don Nix)
  • Addicted to You (Nix / Nicholson)
  • Blues Shoes (Nix / Nicholson)
  • Sun Going Down in Memphis (Mark Massey)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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