Raw – Rough – Roots! This is how you can paraphrase Alabama Slim’s new album “The Parlor”. Because Alabama Slim at 80 years of age is the early incarnation of John Lee Hooker, who was barely 22 years older than this outstanding musician from Vance, Alabama. “Parlor” is the parlor from which we will now hear a lot. Alabama Slim’s living room is not only borne out by his roots, but also by the style of clothing he cultivates: Always in a suit! The way of singing and playing the guitar is not unknown to the blues listener and listening to the 10 songs on the album immediately gives you a déjà vu experience. The songs are recorded in a minimalistic way – a little bass and guitar accompaniment and an almost shy drum kit. Little Freddie King is among the guests of the album and all songs are played in a pounding boogier rhythm. The song titles and lyrics blatantly copper the lyrics from “Boom-Boom-Boom” or “Rock me” or by John Lee Hooker or Muddy Waters. But that is exactly what is fascinating about this album: songs in the style of the old blues heroes recorded by a musician who is soon to become a legend himself. This is music as defined and preached by the generation of John Lee Hookers, Bill Broonzys and Lightnin ‘Hopkins. In the case of the songs, the 12-measure is spontaneously declared as a 13-measure or a 4/4 take as a 5/4 time. Spontaneous blues music is the credo of this album and there are no rules. Alabama Slim plays what he enjoys and Little Freddy King follows him blindly. For me, this album is a big surprise at the end of 2020, which is marked by the pandemic-driven decline of culture. The mood in the country is depressed and the album “The Parlor” by Alabama Slim comes like the silver lining on the music horizon.
All right, the album starts with “Hot Foot”, fast, boogie, heartbreak. The piece is followed by “Freddie’s Voodoo Boogie (feat. Little Freddy King) – recorded no less quickly and no less rough. The solos are rhythm driven and the chanting preaches the voodoo magic she spins around him. “Rob me without a gun” takes the gas out, the organ in the background gives an almost spherical sound: “Mama, you scramble my mind”. And then a simple but intense guitar solo before she robbed him without a weapon. “Rock with me Momma” is again a fast boogie on a well-known guitar riff without changing the chord. As simple as the structure of the song is, the song is exciting and intense. All you have to do is shake your head to the rhythm. One cannot escape. “All night long” comes much slower again, a blues with partly minor chords from the piano, which makes the song exciting again. What is striking about this song is the fact that Alabama Slim does not play through uniformly, but rather loosens up the song sequence with tempo changes, the use of organ or piano and different rhythms. “Forty Jive” ends as spontaneously as it begins. Alabama Slim pumps itself through the song at a faster rhythm, only to end the game with a laugh after 2 minutes. “Midnight rider” continues quickly at this point, the two guitars whip the song forward without changing chords, one guitar sets the basic rhythm and the other guitar plays rhythmically. The drums drive, although you can only hear the snare and the broom. But this stylistic device “less is more” also defines the album “The Parlor” and shapes it. “Rock me” is the song we know from Muddy Waters or from the composer BB King. The song rocks and rolls, the bass drives and Alabama Slim shares his joy when she puts her arms around him. “Someday Baby” also immediately sounds familiar to us. The song starts with the lines “… Don’t care how long you go / I don’t care how long you stay” and we will be led to “… trouble no more …”. The song is fast and again the unconventional variety of Alabama Slim and Little Freddie King creates tension and surprise. This great album closes with the blues “Down in the bottom”, which can be recommended to every roots blues fan.
Munich Talk Hörtipp: “Someday baby” because it’s fast. “Down in the bottom” because it’s a blues and “Forty Jive” because it’s different.
Munich Talk Resumée: Raw – Rough – Roots! A must in the record cabinet.
BELT: “Parlor” will be released on January 29, 2021 on Cornelius Chapel Records, Proper / Bertus Musikvertrieb (CD + LP).
Musician: For this record, the musicians have teamed up with the Music Maker Relief Foundation. Post-production and the perfect amount of bass, organ and piano come from Matt Patton (Drive-By Truckers), Dexateens (Dial Back Sound) Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers, Mississippi Blues Legend). Pearl Rachinsky Moreland (Pearl JR) provided the artwork for the album.
1. HOT FOOT
2. FREDDIE’S VOODOO BOOGIE
3. ROB ME WITHOUT A GUN
4. ROCK WITH ME MOMMA
5. ALL NIGHT LONG
6. FORTY JIVE
7. MIDNIGHT RIDER
8. ROCK ME BABY
9. SOMEDAY BABY
10. DOWN IN THE BOTTOM