Monday, January 17, 2011

BB Wolf and the Three LPs reviewed by Mark Thompson

BB Wolf and the Three LPs
JD Arnold – Writer
Rich Koslowski – Artist
Top Shelf Productions
Graphic Novel – 96 pages

The Lost Recordings
B B Wolf & the Howlers
Companion recording
7 tracks/20:03

This is a neat little package that adopts a blues theme for a graphic novel that turns the traditional tale of the Three Little pigs inside out. Dedicating their work to the memory of Emmitt Till, the authors cast BB Wolf as a farmer and part-time bluesman struggling to provide for his family. One fateful day, the evil pigs show up on their doorstep, flexing their legal muscles and threatening to tear apart the Wolf family’s world.

From there the storyline mixes elements of music, racism and underdog status into a chilling tale as BB’s world spins out of control, ultimately leaving him seeking revenge and retribution. Without giving away any key details of the plot, Wolf’s journey takes him from the Mississippi delta to the upper Midwest and his final reckoning.

Koslowski’s artwork is very well done. He is very adept at drawing the main character and conveying his emotional turmoil from frame to frame. And as you would expect from a work in this genre, there is plenty realistically render violence. The tale Arnold spins keeps things moving but doesn’t leave a lot of room to develop any characters in this drama other than BB. But readers will marvel at his dark, twisted re-inventing of the classic children’s tale.

Top Shelf offers a package through their website that includes a brief musical soundtrack, recorded by a group of Milwaukee-based musicians. Three tracks are presented as vintage tracks of BB Wolf and his band, the Howlers. Chad Lundgren handles the vocals with his gruff voice and gets support from a full group on “Rip It Up” featuring James Wagner on slide guitar.  Lundgren is joined by Lance Dobersek on guitar and Paul Martin on harp on “Freight Train” while “Sweet Baby Elle” is performed by the duo of Lundgren and Dobersek. Both are creditable country blues styled tracks that make a fitting soundtrack for the novel.

The other tracks are “modern” versions of the same tunes that crank the guitar volume and sport a rock beat. The updated “Freight Train” ventures into heavy metal territory while Justin Rolbiecki delivers a haunting performance of “Sweet Baby Elle”, playing a variety of instruments behind his singing. Koslowski gets a chance to display his vocal skill when he shares he limelight with Lundgren on a bonus take of “Rip It Up”.

If you are looking for a different view of blues music – and life – then you should make a point of checking out this product. The hardcover graphic novel can be ordered through or from the Top Shelf website, which is the only source for the package with the cd soundtrack.  Enjoy !!

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

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