Guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer has flirted with his own unique brand of harmolodic blues-rock over the years in various configurations, which he documented on discs like Blues All Night (1989, In + Out) and Blues Preacher (1992, DIW/Columbia). But never before has Blood dealt with the blues in such a raw, straight-on manner as he does on Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions (Label M 5728; 59:25). The brainchild of guitarist-producer Vernon Reid, this one takes Ulmer back to his rural South Carolina roots in a program of gritty urban and country blues by the likes of John Lee Hooker (“Dimples,” “Money”), Willie Dixon (“Little Red Rooster,” “Spoonful,” “I Want to Be Loved,” “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” “I Love the Life I Live,” “Back Door Man”), Howlin’ Wolf (“I Asked for Water (She Gave Me Gasoline),” Sonny Boy Williamson (“Fattening Frogs for Snakes”), Son House (“Death Letter”), Otis Rush (“Double Trouble”) and Muddy Waters (“Evil”). Delivered in Blood’s signature vocal rasp with a minimum of piercing guitar solos along the way, these updated renditions of blues classics fit neatly into the Fat Possum school of grunge-blues that is currently finding favor with alternative-rock audiences.
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