John Bigham, otherwise known as The Soul of John Black, has just issued his latest on the innovative Yellow Dog roots label. As before, he gathered in a few sessioneer cats, but by far the lion's share of all this music is directly from Bigham and Bigham alone. When it comes to the sound, though, if there's an inner city version of the esteemed Taj Mahal, Bigham's the cat, and Sunshine State of Mind very nicely displays his deceptive compositional ease and facility with soulful roots songs knocking on rock and roll's back door. That's hardly surprising, though, as the guy worked with Miles, Dr. Dre, Nikki Costa, and Eminem, also spending seven years in the Fishbone ensemble. Knows his shit, yes he does, and never a cut is wasted throughout the entirety of this or any of his releases.
East L.A. Lady is a great example of what's up here. A funky, pulsey, groovin' cut extolling dance-hall romance, it sparks off with a full head of steam and way-hip scratchy guitar staccato, goes through its paces with grace and bump, then lays the front end down so the rhythm section can middle-eight its catchy foundation sway in contrast. Works like a mo'fo. Too Much Tequila turns that around in an ode to love and booze, a wistful paean to the mistakes that can be made in the good life. Shake It Off casts around to find a way of ridding oneself of what Tequila laments, jettisoning the hoodoo'ed ol' voodoo, tripping out the front door to a new thang.
The Bo Diddleyish Lemonade jaunts along the path, hunkering down in the bayou to spiritedly thrash about in alt-Robert Planty fashion, crooning about squeezing lemons all night after picking 'em all day, obtaining lemonade long past midnight. I don't think I have to explain the metaphor. When listening to The Soul of John Black, you get the exact same feeling found in laying an ear to certain of Sly Stone's work: a feel-good, grinning, get funky, dig it while ya can 'cause ya won't always be here and neither will it kinda vibe. And right now, amid all this conservative political / business bullshit tearing up the countryside stem to stern, that's exactly what I need: a breather and a reminder of what was what before the reptiles took over. Thank yez, John Black, and drop on by, sit for a spell, cool yer heels, I gots me a real good bourbon tree out back, and we'll see if we can't spike up that lemonade a bit.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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