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James “Blood” Ulmer: Forbidden Blues

The person who said “There is no second act in American life,” clearly was not talking about guitarist James Blood Ulmer. Act one, Blood went from Detroit jazz organ combos to Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time band to his solo debut, Tales of Captain Black. Act two’s opening strains of Blood’s alt radio smash “Are You Glad To Be In America?” kicked off a manic flow of album covers, review clips, reality checks that abruptly faded to black. Act three, darkness (save for a spotlit blowup of Forbidden Blues’ cover). A blinding burst of white light supernova’s into Ulmer’s ether-shattering “Thwrang!” intro to the head-ringing opener “What Is.” From there, Forbidden Blues is one long giddy fever of ill aural mirage-gees-violins (Charles Burnham) highland-flinging through the Civil War (“Forget Not”), a hip hop bizarro world where all MCs speak in skitter-scatter guitar tongues (“High Yellow”)-that eventually dissipates into the soothing downhome languidness of “Inspiration.” A thoroughly enjoyable recording.

Originally Published