Boo Boo Davis “Tree Man” (Black & Tan B&T 045) Mississippi born and long-time Saint Louis based bluesman James “Boo Boo” Davis is one of the last to have sung the blues in the cotton fields, and his music is the real deal. For many years now he has been working with Dutch label Black & Tan – with label boss Jan Mittendorp on guitar and drummer John Gerritse. Sometimes they will go for a specific idea – say, showcasing Boo Boo’s soul side – but for this set the focus is firmly o producing a straight-forward, down home blues set. Some of these songs are slow-ish, brooding compositions in the vein of Howling Wolf (Davis’ voice certainly suits this kind of thing – led an ear to the title track, or ‘What’s The Matter With You Baby’), whilst ‘She Won’t Call Me On The Telephone’ is nicely up tempo and raucous, and ‘Bring My Baby Back Home’, with some slight soul tinges, is perhaps the smoothest number here – though it’s not that smooth! Boo Boo plays harp too on this set – he is not a virtuoso by any means, but he does the job perfectly well, and that comment goes for the whole album, no showboating or ego-tripping, just real blues the whole way.
Here a short review by Norman Darwen that was published in BLUES IN THE SOUTH (UK):
B&T 969 – ElectroBluesSociety feat Jan Hidding – All The Way Down
Another download single from this Dutch outfit with singer Jan Hidding. ‘All The Way Down’ runs to four and a half minutes, with Jan’s big, deep voice backed by a riffing guitar, bass, drums, blues harp and occasional electronic noises. The song itself is a soulful, blues ballad, a little reminiscent of the mid-60s but certainly contemporary, though the electronics add to the track rather than detract from it. Do try to give it a listen!
ElectroBluesSociety feat Jan Hidding – Rosie (Black & Tan B&T 967)
Jan Hidding is singer with the long-standing Europe an garage blues group The Cuban Heels, here teamed up with the Dutch Black & Tan’s label’s house band (Jasper Mortier on drums and bass and label boss Jan Mittendorp on guitars and effects) for a modern recording of “Rosie”, the prison song recorded by Alan Lomax. The results are nicely gritty, rootsy dance music; but don’t let that last phrase put you off, there’s definitely more than a trace of UK 60s R’n’B. Very interesting indeed…
David Philips – Winter (Black & Tan B&T 962) UK born but long based in Spain, David Philips has been working over the last few years as a folk inflected artist for Holland’s Black & Tan Records, one man and a guitar, and so this release for the blues label – David’s sixth, not including a couple of remix tracks – might come as a surprise. It is still a solo effort, but the guitar is electric, blues harmonica crops up occasionally and there is a rhythm section behind David’s excellent vocals. All the songs are David’s of course, he plays all the instruments, and he even provided the cover art. The sound ranges from indie-rock to blues, with comparisons being drawn with Ryan Adams and Doyle Bramhall II; I also hear a little Tom Petty in there too, ‘Running’ opens with a riff a little like Jimi Hendrix’s cover of ‘All Along The Watchtower’ before turning in the direction of Neil Young maybe, and ‘That’s Alright’ recalls early 70s Pink Floyd with a long, space-y passage. Mind you, ‘The One’ is a strong slab of blues-rock. This release contains eight rootsy, hook-laden songs, and if this review has intrigued you, then do check out this release..
This is a compilation of six tracks released as singles in 2015 and 2016 by this Dutch duo of vastly experienced guitarist Mischa Den Haring and Black & Tan Records owner/ producer Jan Mittendorp, who decided to carry on working together as BLu ACiD after success with St Louis bluesman Boo Boo Davis. This release is undeniably cutting edge contemporary blues, with a huge sound (listen to grooving ‘Stuck Anyway’ with a monster slide guitar riff), classic soul influences, as the Otis Redding inflected vocal on ‘Silence’ confirms, and the rave styled ‘Things Will Change’. That last title is rather apt for this set – this is the blues for a generation raised on electronic dance music, hip hop, and remix culture. As such, it might not attract much of the traditional blues audience, but my kids actually stopped and listened – and they don’t do that if I play Muddy, BB or Elmore!
French blues artist Renaud Villet a.k.a. Rivherside released his well-received first album in 2012, and a couple of years later this one man band from Clermont-Ferrand decided to mix hip hop and electro sounds with his blues. Stop! Don’t go away just yet… take a listen to ‘Albert Dre Jr.’ which offers Albert King licks over a harsh urban beat, or ‘Come Over Here’, with its trance like backing combining with an R. L. Burnside styled approach; so too does ‘Muddy Water’, which also has a rap from TDP. ‘I’m Going Away’ is a John Lee Hooker-ish performance, with the low in the mix vocals adding to the boogie approach, whilst ‘Need To Speed’ is a slab of manic rock and roll and ‘Paranoid’ is a tough blues-rocker. The pace slows again for the folky ‘See How They Shine’, then ‘Skinny Woman’ is a gritty-toned Fred McDowell flavoured piece (plus effects) and ‘Treat Me Right’ hits another powerful blues groove. The set closes out with Dave Crowe and LigOne guesting on ‘Who You’re Talking To’, with the electronic effects pretty noticeable here. OK, I realise that this release is not going to be to everyone’s taste but if you like your blues modern, unafraid to take risks and with a bit of an edge, do investigate this.
Long-time St. Louis resident James “Boo Boo” Davis is one of the last of the bluesmen to have emerged from the harsh life of picking cotton in Mississippi (he was born in Drew), and his style is similarly old school – or ‘Old Skool’ as the track of that name reveals – and authentic. Although Black & Tan have tried, more successfully than you might think (take a listen to the closing ‘Who Stole The Booty’), to bring him up to date with electronics and have had him singing soul music, his default position is that of the down-home blues singer. These songs, drawn from his previous releases for the Dutch label Black & Tan between 1999 and 2015, are indeed one chord numbers, with Howling Wolf’s droning style and ferocious vocal stylings an obvious influence on numbers like ‘Blues On My Mind’, ‘Hard Times’, ‘Ice Storm’, and ‘The Snake’. ‘I’m Comin’ Home’ sounds like it should have been on a 78 issued by a small label out of Jackson, Mississippi in the early 50s, and ‘Can Man’ refers to his early musical experiences before he could afford a drum-kit. ‘Keep On Lovin’ Me Baby’ has a full band accompaniment, with some fierce blues-rock guitar over a boogie backing that owes something to Slim Harpo’s well-known ‘Shake Your Hips’, and it also features Boo Boo’s harmonica playing – not heard often enough, though it does feature on several other tracks here. I guess it probably depends on how much of this material you already have, but if you like your blues down(-home) and dirty, do investigate this.