Review: L.R. Phoenix – The Hollow Log of Capt. Richard Wolfe
Posted on: Tuesday, Apr 3, 2012
The new album from L.R. Phoenix sees him again in North Mississippi hill country and Delta blues territory, on a terrific 13-track collection, recorded in The White Room in Tartu, Estonia, with some wonderful musicians helping out, such as Andres Roots, Indrek Tiisel, Peeter Piik and Martin Eessal, and more – with himself on vocals and acoustic guitar on all tracks.
The British bluesman, now resident in Finland, possesses a big voice that at varying times recalls Howling Wolf and Tom Waits, and is perfectly suited to his material – which is, as he admits “written, borrowed or stolen by L.R. Phoenix” . . . . a refreshingly honest confession, with indeed many of the songs being covers or influenced by old songs. The nice booklet with the album has a short story to accompany each song, which adds to the enjoyment.
Proceedings open with the (sort of) title cut, “Hollow Log”, based on an old Mississippi Fred McDowell guitar riff, which leads into the Canned Heat-flavoured boogie of “Bedroom”, with some fine harmonica from Indrek Tiisel and Andres Roots stabbing electric guitar. The solo piece, “Crying”, is based on Blind Willie Johnson’s “Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes”, and sees Phoenix playing the slide parts with a pocket knife.
You can’t beat a good ‘train’ blues, and “Morning Train” fairly rattles along, with a full band on it, with some fine Jew’s harp from Tiisel; he takes his version of “The Cypress Grove” from Skip James first recordings of it, but adds his own guitar riff to it. He next adapts R.L. Burnside’s “Going Down South”, for “Down South”, with himself adding ‘axe & grunts’, to give the song an almost prison chain gang feel.
The excellent “Hobo” has more fine harmonica and some nice bowed bass from Peeter Piik; the next song, “Streets Of Lohan” is driven along by Martin Eessalu’s banjo – and is about “a place I went to and never want to go back”! Another highlight here is “Death” . . . based on a brace of Son House songs, “Death Letter/My Black Mama”, with touches of Willie Brown and Charley Patton for good measure.
L.R. Phoenix’s music is honest, straight forward blues, delivered with no lack of musical proficiency and it would be great to see him bring it back to his native shores sometimes, be it solo or with these great Estonian musicians on board.
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