Henry Kaiser & Rome Yamilov – The Lenoir Investigation
This 80-minute CD is filled with musical adventures. Recorded by Kid Andersen (bass/vocal) with all songs by the late J.B. Lenoir (1929-1967) except for “Rollercoaster” by Elias McDaniel. The music’s like a big quilt of sound & track 1 “The Whale Has Swallowed Me,” features harmonica, sharp snare snap beats, tinkling piano notes, colorful effects, moaning bassline, waterfall type guitar takes all sewn together into a tight weave of instruments. Rome Yamilov (guitar/vocals) was born in Russia & destined to sing these Lenoir compositions.
There are tunes that are far more guitar-exuberant, Mindful of the stew created in 1966 by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s classic Elvin Bishop-Mike Bloomfield “East-West” track. But Henry Kaiser (guitar), an idiosyncratic accomplished musician & soloist showcased with a variety of famous diversified musicians through the decades, including Richard Thompson, Fred Frith, David Lindley, Eugene Chadbourne, the Golden Palominos & Herbie Hancock is at the helm.
This excursion The Lenoir Investigation (Drops May 20–Little Village) may be a little “out there” for some Americana ears but the attraction is how concise & wildly exciting Mississippi-born J.B. Lenoir’s (pronounced Len-ore) catalog can be in this setting. “People Are Meddlin’ In Our Affairs,” is 9 minutes of blistering guitar & hot harmonica. Its bluesy inflection is typical of the white-blues leaders of the 60s such as Butterfield, John Mayall, Savoy Brown, Duster Bennett & Canned Heat. It’s incendiary.
Some may say this kind of blues is so hot it loses its soul, but Rome has the necessary vocals to keep it all balanced with authenticity. The improvisational sections came naturally since Kaiser is adept at that skill. A Lisa Leuschner vocal groove delightfully shifts the momentum into a more upbeat mode though Lisa’s vocalizing is fairly economical…it’s what the song needs, a bit of a children-singalong feel. Lisa’s voice may be better suited for reggae. But she is delightful.
The songs have a bit of an international feel. Many played with the traditions of other geographical regions. It all works without being too challenging. There’s a slight late 60s-early 70s feel to some songs. May have been intended. The funk & approach has a slight Shuggie Otis, Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Stephen Stills Super Session atmosphere (if anyone remembers those days).
But that would be a good thing – it’s not so much retro as a reminder of how cool things were musically decades ago. Kaiser-Yamilov achieves this with Hammond organ-heavy breaks, steady jazzy drums & maniacal guitar that always returns to the basics. “I Feel So Good,” is a dynamo.
There’s nothing dull about this recording. It’s alive & spreads like a bonfire with interesting grooves. Is it a dance record? It could be…if you can dance. Other players are June Core (drums), Aki Kumar (harmonica/vocals on “The Mojo Boogie”), & Jim Pugh (organ/piano).
Color photo courtesy – Little Village Foundation. CD available @ https://www.squidco.com/miva/merchant.mvc