Memphissippi Sounds – Welcome to the Land
A bit of surprise — the cover depicts 2 young men who appear more as rappers or hip-hop artists. Yet, from the start, this 9-song CD takes off like a blues rocket. The propulsion is smooth. The blues stomping harmonica-driven “Who’s Gonna Ride,” follows a superb Taj Mahal & Ry Cooder tradition. These young men cook.
The vocals are excellent. At times deep cutting tonality as Eddy Grant. Produced by Little Village’s Akarsha “Aki” Kumar (who also provided the color image below). The set is energetic.
Welcome to the Land (Drops Nov 15–Little Village) is a trip. While the titles are a bit cliché oriented & typical of the genre the music compressed into the grooves is genuine. Even “Groove With Me,” is laid down thick in a John Lee Hooker vocal style. The mesh of guitars, drums & harmonica while a little scattered comes together tight. It’s the way vanilla ice cream takes to hot fudge when the fudge is hot. A delicious combination.
Memphissippi Sounds play their own interpretive strains of authentic original blues. They modernized it & added a narcotic kick. “I’m Mad,” is percussive. Drives hard. Mindful of Eric Burdon & the Animals 1968 cover of Sly Stone’s “I’m An Animal” from the “Love Is,” LP. “I’m Mad,” has a walking lead guitar line & the thrash of drums/cymbals is a musical assault on the ears. It has soul, blues & a swampy seductive funky brew.
Damion Pearson (guitar/harmonica/vocals) & Cameron Kimbrough (drums/guitar/vocals) went to the legendary Sun Studios – home of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Ike Turner, & B.B. King. To name a few. The band name refers to their homes — Memphis & North Mississippi. Cameron’s also the grandson of renowned blues artist Junior Kimbrough.
What’s particularly fine is the modern musical approach Pearson/Kimbrough applies to vintage blues. Nothing sounds recycled. All 9 original tracks touch on politics, romance, the all-important groove, the blues tradition & they add a pinch of hip-hop sugar.
Some songs take off more energetically than others, but all are rooted in wonderful ideas with steady hypnotic jamming. Some like, “Crossroads,” (not the classic rock song), & “Saturday Morning,” recall Sly Stone/deep Larry Graham vocals (Sly & the Family Stone) with a tinge of Arthur Lee (from the band Love). Interesting mix.
“Go Downtown,” is steeped in the Paul Butterfield harmonica roots from the 1966 classic Butterfield Blues Band. Again, a John Lee Hooker vocal tint. It works & with (“Look Out For the Wolf”) a generous dip into a stylistic Keb’Mo country-blues vocal approach. The duo avoids full-throttle horns & stinging solos. Instead, they focus on groove, atmosphere, & mood. And succeed. Quite an achievement. Quite likable. The 47-minute CD: available @ http://littlevillagefoundation.com/memphissippi-sounds/