Review: Memphis Gold – Pickin’ In High Cotton

Posted on: Wednesday, Nov 7, 2012


Memphis Gold – Pickin’ In High Cotton

(Stackhouse Records: SRC-1915)

‘Memphis Gold,’ who, in is day job as a tree surgeon is better known to his friends and colleagues as Chester Chandler, unfortunately it was his day job that nearly killed him and his career after he fell thirty five feet out of a pine tree in College Park, Maryland;  even though his doctors felt that the idea of him ever walking again, would at the very least, be optimistic but,  he not only confounded them, he also combined starting to walk again with recording  this very moving album. All eleven numbers are acoustic based with drums, bass and guitar where needed.

The atmosphere throughout is a measured slow walk through time with inherent spine-tingling shivers. This is achieved mostly by Memphis’s sometime strident, defiant and almost howling vocals yet, also reeking of suppressed ghosts and memories of the past, as recalled in “How You Gonna Play The Blues,” and “Pickin’ In High Cotton,” in these Memphis asks the open question, if you haven’t the memories of back breaking cotton pickin’ (he actually worked the cotton fields with his mother as a child), slopping out hogs and experiencing grinding poverty, how can you seriously claim to understand the blues?

Highly evocative and enjoyable is the very fine North Mississippi instrumental ”Back Po’ch Tennessee” as is the  slowburning “Homeless Blues.” The jolly little acoustic number “Biscuit Boogie” and the John Lee Hooker inspired “Ice Cream Man,” slot easily alongside plaintive and endearing burners as “Don’t Take My Blues Away” and “John Brown.”

As a contrast to the main themes of the album “Standing By the Highway,” is a foot stomper of the highest order, a slow bass building, seriously striding funker with almost no end in sight. Well worth investigation.


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