Mississippi BluesChris Thomas King -- Come on in My Kitchen
After weeks of chancing it on new and used CDs that turned out mostly crap, I've stumbled onto only a few gems. Then this one about the Mississippi Blues, on a label called Putumayo that specializes in "world music," makes up for it all. I grabbed it because the cover caught my eye and the disc had a Memphis Minnie track I hadn't heard before. Allmusic.com rates the disc poorly, saying it's not fully representative but, well, it is only 11 tracks long so I'm not sure why they continued to expect it to be.
Collections are typically hit or miss throughout, but for me this one's a hit, bullseye, icing on the cake, cherry on the sundae. I struggled awhile trying to decide which song to post, and finally just shuffled a deck and drew a card. Scooby. 8. I put it back and pulled another, thinking "maybe I'll post two." Shaggy. 8.
All right then. Six of my twelve loyal readers probably already know about Chris Thomas King, so this is for the other six. This is stripped down blues and a voice like velvet, with the unusual addition of an electric voicebox. It's jarring at first but only because of expectations: blues==guitar and voice, maybe harmonica, certainly not a voicebox. Well, it fits with King's M.O.--he's long been mixing blues with hip hop, adding beats and scratches, so he's not inclined to treat it as something immutable and sacred. (Remember that scene in Scratch where MixMaster Mike worked over a Robert Johnson LP? 10/10, right? Damn right.) Still, a lot of his earlier music has met with controversy. His later music has become more traditional.
In O Brother, Where Art Thou? King played Tommy Johnson, a musician who supposedly sold his soul to the devil--funny that, this is a Robert Johnson song.
Keb' Mo' covered this track on his first (and in my opinion best) album, but here it is a bit less raucous (it's a classic, of course, and been covered many times--Taj Mahal's version of it on An Evening of Acoustic Music is also great, and is so subdued it sounds like a different song entirely).