Cornelius Chapel Records
A Refreshing Set of Modern Blues Originals Plus a Couple of Re-Worked Classics.
Here’s a question.
Just how many, genuine “Bluesmen” have gone through their whole musical lifetime without ever releasing a solo album?
Who knows? Not me; that’s for sure.
Thank goodness the Music Maker Relief Foundation teamed up with Cornelius Chapel Records to finally give octogenarian Alabama Slim aka Milton Frazier his opportunity.
The actual session took place 18 months ago in a New Orleans studio, called The Parlour. Slim, with his cousin and long-term best pal, guitarist Little Freddie King plus drummer Ardie Dean taking just 4 hours to lay down these 10 tracks.
Dean oversaw the production with the DBT’s Matt Patton plus Jimbo Mathus taking care of post-production, retrospectively adding bass and keys where required.
Born Milton Frazier in Vance, Alabama in March 1939, Slim fell in love with traditional Blues at an early age from his father’s collection of 78’s.
Moving to New Orleans in 1965, then onto Dallas after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, he has now returned to the Crescent City. In fact, had it not been for this damned international pandemic he would have appeared (for the first time ever) at his adopted hometown’s Jazz and Heritage Festival last year.
Known as a lifelong dapper dresser, his attire always drew attention, the fact that he’s almost 7 foot tall also kinda helped him stand out in any crowd.
You should consider John Lee Hooker’s classic vocal sound as the template for Alabama Slim’s music, but it’s much, much more than a tribute to the 5 times Grammy winner.
Slim and Little Freddie’s dovetailing guitars interweave with Dean’s solid, driving beat.
“Hot Foot” welcomes you to the album with a very positive call of ‘All-right’ and an up-beat twin guitar boogie which then leads into “Freddie’s VooDoo Boogie” where Little Freddie is the featured lead vocalist. “Rob Me Without a Gun” slows things down and has Jimbo Mathus’ restrained Hammond providing a much fuller and warmer sound.
“Rock with Me Momma” has Slim pleading with his woman in the time honoured fashion and inviting her to a night of passion, which is then followed (optimistically) by “All Night Long!”
A moodier, less frenetic offering, where our main man is searching the streets with the roosters crowing, having the added benefit of some ivory twinkling from Jimbo.
Not the ‘other’ “Midnight Rider” but Slim’s own song of the same name again touches on more night time activities followed by a rousing version of the Blues classic “Rock Me Baby” continuing a similar, familiar theme of most of the earlier tracks.
The closing track is “Down in the Bottom” with stripped back vocals and those familiar twin guitars delivering a sultry and swampy sound, and the familiar JLH facsimile of “Someday Baby” certainly had my foot stomping too.
However, for me the standout track is the self-penned, politically charged number, entitled “Forty Jive” which could have been written by Tony Joe White, again reflecting the alligators and bayous of Louisiana.
In summary, Alabama Slim’s story is a vivid lesson of perseverance, resolutely sticking with the moaning and groaning of the Delta Blues that he heard in the 1940’s on his grand-parents farm, in the ‘Yellowhammer State’. The album is a delightful collection, consisting mostly of refreshing, modern originals that avoid being cliched, with just a couple of re-worked old blues classics that all fit superbly on the plate served up in The Parlor.
Jack Kidd “Messin’ with the Kidd” on lionheartradio.com
Released 22nd January 2021