Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pickin’ High Cotton reviewed by Steve Jones

Pickin’ High Cotton
Memphis Gold
Stack House Records
11 tracks

This is a dark and deep in the blues album. Memphis Gold takes us track by track through a life of picking cotton by hand in Mississippi, homelessness, poverty, drunkenness, and other tragedies that have filled his live and given him the blues just like the forefathers of the blues. He expresses his feelings deeply and with a true sense of the blues. This is a down home and dirty blues CD of all original tracks.

While the lyrics and beat sometimes seem to be overly simplistic and they deliver some riffs we’ve heard before, Memphis Gold is writing and playing in the style of years past. He is one of the last true links to Delta blues played by a man who lived in the style of the originally recorded bluesmen; he gives us a 21st-century take on the tradition.

Dark and dreary times get the treatment in tracks like “How You Gonna Play The Blues?”, “Don’t Take My Blues Away”, ”Homeless Blues”, and “Pickin’ High Cot-ton”. One can feel and understand the suffering men and women went through in the Delta when listening to this man. He emotes the blues in a straightforward and blunt manner- no questions asked.

There is some variety here, too. “Back Po’ch Tennessee” is a cool and jumping instrumental song, while “Ice Cream Man” (not a cover) gives us a different take on the blues where he and MMM want to be their baby’s ice cream man. “John Brown” is some more deep blues, but it hearkens to times a century and a half ago in a fresh manner. The closing track “Standin’ By The Highway” gives us more of Gold’s blues, but the rhythm and beat are funked up and grooving.

The CD insert materials is lacking some of the guitar credits on some tracks, but the players here support Memphis Gold 1000% with their efforts- they are tight and quite in synch. The packaging and insert show the pride Gold has in his recognition and success. There are the Living Blues and Blues & Rhythm magazine covers he was featured on, sponsorships, and gratitude for a flag he received that was flown over GITMO.

The CD is fun to listen to. It may seem at time to be stuff we’ve heard before, but that is what the early blues were all about. Memphis Gold takes us back and helps us recognize we are not far removed from the days of the plantation and share crop-ping. All that has saved men and women the labor of picking cotton are huge machines that have taken their jobs away, menial as they were, but perhaps making for a new future generation’s take on the blues where even King Cotton cannot provide a meager sustenance for small farmers.

Reviewed by Steve Jones

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