Review: Corey Harris – Fulton Blues

Posted on: Friday, May 23, 2014

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Corey Harris -Fulton Blues

(Music Avenue/ Blues Boulevard: 250360)

With Corey due to appear in Clitheroe and Manchester in May, this is a timely reissue from this Belgian label. This album was previously only available via Corey’s website. Corey tends to maintain an African-American focus and the Fulton of the title is a community in Richmond, Virginia where the slaves were landed from Africa but one from which families have recently been evicted due to “greed masquerading as progress” as Corey remarks.

He is in more or less straight blues territory on the opener with its excellent horn arrangement, before he delves into West African inflections on ‘Underground’ and then the album continues in a country blues vein up to the soul styled ‘Tallahatchie’, whose wistful arrangement belies the references to the murdered teenager Emmett Till.

The title track has an appropriately East Coast ragtime styled blues approach (think Cephas & Wiggins), whilst ‘Black Rag’ is an archaic sounding vocal and banjo piece. Skip James’ ‘Devil Got My Woman’ is as eerie sounding as ever, and is one of only three borrowings here, with the others being a very tough ‘Catfish Blues’ – owing something to both Muddy Waters and Bobby Bland – and a rather more gentle cover of Blind Blake’s ‘That Will Never Happen No More’ – lovely picking here.

The modern blues of ‘House Negro Blues’, ‘Lynch Blues’ – a country blues styled re-imagining of ‘Strange Fruit’ perhaps – and the guitar and harmonica accompanied ‘Maggie Walker Blues’ about a prominent African-American woman in Richmond, emphasise Corey’s Afrocentric base. ‘Fat Duck’s Groove’, the original album closer is a nicely, er, grooving electric instrumental blues workout, whilst of the two live bonus tracks added to the original track-listing, ‘Better Way’ is a skipping ska styled piece and ‘Esta Loco’ also has a strong Caribbean touch, though perhaps more towards Cuba than Jamaica. Both are timely reminders that Corey is more than “just” a bluesman, but this set will certainly appeal to those looking for strong examples of deeply-rooted modern blues.

NORMAN DARWEN

www.corey-harris.com

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