Review: Grady Champion – Bootleg Whiskey

Posted on: Sunday, Nov 30, 2014

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Grady Champion – Bootleg Whiskey

(Malaco Records: MCD 7546)

Grady was born in 1969 the youngest of 28 children in Canton, Mississippi. The two main drivers in his childhood was the church and working on the family farm. He discovered a passion for music after joining the local church choir at the age of eight. Seven years later the family moved to Miami, Florida but, after a year there he returned to Mississippi to finish his education. Returning to Florida, Grady embarked upon a career in boxing but, his inner passion for music led him into radio work which finally allowed him in the 90s to recreate himself as a rap artist named M.C. Gold.

After a short while he found that his life and musical tastes had more in common with the blues than rap and re-focused his career in that direction. His harmonica style has great affinity with (Rice Miller, the second) Sonny Boy Williamson and a vocal talent can range from an emotive bawling and screeching James Brown to the delicious mellow tones of Bobby Rush.

He established and cultivated a healthy following on the Florida club scene which allowed him to record and produced a self-financed debut album. This release aroused the interest of the Shanachie record label and two albums were duly released by the label.

Over the last 15 years Grady has not only released seven enthralling albums but, his most recent releases are on his own Grady Shady Label. From an early age Grady quietly harboured an ambition to record for the legendary Malaco label and in this release we can appreciate his profound and singular skills merging with the labels good taste and confidence in such a talented artist as Grady.

Sitting in the producers chair is label owner Tommy Crouch Jr. who seamlessly assimilates the foundations of old school soul with the gritty realism of today that Grady is well known for.

The title number “Bootleg Whiskey”, by George Jackson aptly summarises Grady’s suitability for inclusion into the Malaco family, his attractive vocal of the raw and sweetly mellow variety entwines around the rich mixture of horns, organ and enticing guitar. As does Ernie Johnsons’ horn and organ drenched “Don’t Waste My Time”, an old fashioned tale of woe between mismatched lovers and the arguments that always ensue.

Grady’s very engaging and soulful harmonica leads an inviting Muscle Shoals influenced horn section on “Home Alone”, another sad tale of cheaters and schemers.  The bracing, racing “Beg, Borrow, Steal”, shifts the tempo with a harmonica and guitar led punching and stabbing footapper that swings like a cool cat on a Saturday night. “Here We Go Y’all”, is in the same mould with Grady’s harmonica rasping and rolling, taking the guitar and organ out on a hugely enjoyable foot shuffling toe-tapper.

A stroke of genius is the stark realism of “White Boy With The Blues”, it is an emotionally raw, slowburning, sad and depressing tale of multiracial friendship suffering the slings and arrows of pure and unadulterated indifference from both sides of the fence. Unfortunately, this is still the case in the Twenty First Century.

Essential!

BRIAN HARMAN

www.gradychampion.com

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