Review: Watermelon Slim and The Workers + The Scott McKeon Band at The Manchester Academy – 16 July 2008

Posted on: Tuesday, Jul 22, 2008

Watermelon Slim & The Workers

William ‘Watermelon Slim’ Homans was born in Boston and raised in North Carolina.  On returning from Vietnam a fervent anti-war activist, he first appeared on the music scene in 1973 with the release of a protest-tinged album. Since then, he has undertaken a range of jobs including truck driver, saw-miller and funeral official. He ended up farming watermelons in Oklahoma where he is now resident.

It is only in recent years that Slim’s considerable musical talents have been fully acknowledged. In 2006, his self-titled album was ranked number one in MOJO magazine’s Top Blues CDs, won the Independent Music Award for Blues Album of the Year, hit number one on the Living Blues Radio Chart, debuted at number 13 on the Billboard Blues Radio Chart and won the Blues Critic Award for Album of the Year. The following year, he achieved six Blues Music Awards nominations, equalling a record shared only by the likes of B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Robert Cray.

In light of those achievements, the size of the crowd at the Manchester Academy was disappointing, but those in attendance were duly rewarded by a master class. Following a full-volume, energetic, rock-drenched set from The Scott McKeon Band, Slim and The Workers delivered a delightful and varied blues programme. Admirably supported by Ronnie ‘Mack’ McMullen on guitar, Michael Newberry on drums and Cliff Belcher on bass guitar, Slim led from the front on vocals, harp and horizontal slide guitar, interspersing a fund of stories and observations among the splendid musical offerings.

The set mainly comprised original numbers such as the rumba-rhythmed ‘Truck Driving Mama’, the excellent slow blues, ‘Newspaper Reporter’ and the upbeat shuffle, ‘I’ve Got News’. The slow and bluesy ‘Dad In The Distance’ described the heartache of that circumstance while the whimsical ‘Call My Job’ portrayed the after-effects of over-indulgence. Covers included ‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’ and, by way of an encore, Slim Harpo’s ‘Got Love if You Want It’. It was a superb performance from a consummate entertainer, who deserves much greater exposure in the UK. A real treat.

Lionel Ross


Dave Hughes

July 22nd, 2008 at 11:38
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Li – great review – went to see him in Bristol on Saturday 19th and was equally surprised at the low turn out. The show was excellent, with the high point being an extended version of Muddy Waters “I’m a Man” with Slim claiming that although Muddy didn’t know it he had written the song about him.


Pete Evans

July 22nd, 2008 at 13:16
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Li – at the end of your excellent review you mentioned that Watermelon Slim deserves more UK exposure. I agree with you as he is a big favourite of mine, however, he was pencilled in for Worthenbury a couple of years ago but pulled the whole UK tour because he could make more money in the USA … sad.
I hope an agency can take him over a present him to real blues venues where I’m sure he’d be appreciated more. I always advocate that a greater number of venues paying less is better than a few venues paying more, as merchandise sales are always better.