Blues, Afrobeat, and alt-country collide.
Memphis blues guitarist Little Jimmy King passed away in 2002 at age 33 (of a heart attack). Born Manuel Gales, King was the brother of guitarists Eric and Eugene Gales but renamed himself in tribute to his two biggest influences: Jimi Hendrix and Albert King. Before his too-early demise, King recorded three solo albums and one live album for Bullseye Blues and looked like one of the genre's great young hopes.
Gales evoked Hendrix with his explosive left-handed playing, but it was King's powerful, blues-drenched electric guitar that seems to have made a profound impact on the younger Memphian's music. No surprise then that Little Jimmy King went on to tour with Albert King, who dubbed the young sidekick his "grandson."
On this posthumous live album, King nods to both heroes with covers of King's "Cross Cut Saw" and Hendrix's "Red House" (along with the Hendrix-identified "Hey Joe"). After the intro — only one of 10 tracks clocks in at less than five minutes ("Cross Cut Saw," 4:56) — King goes on several long guitar excursions. His four-piece backing band provides able support but mostly stays out of the way.
The centerpiece here is "Red House," which lasts nearly 13 minutes. It lacks the genius and grace of Hendrix's version but still showcases a virtuosity that garnered King a star on Beale Street, where he'll rest alongside "grandpa" Albert for eternity. — Chris Herrington
(Hill Country Records)
The Oxford, Mississippi-based Afrissippi is led by Senegalese native Guelel Kumba, who unites the West African music of his childhood with an adulthood discovery of John Lee Hooker and moved to Oxford earlier this decade to explore that sonic fusion. The band recently recorded this second album, a follow-up to the 2005 debut Fulani Journey, at Jimbo Mathus' Delta Recording Service in Como.
On the opening "Singha," the hypnotic Junior Kimbrough-style riffs of Mississippi guitarist Eric Deaton are layered over the polyrhythmic African percussion of Kimbrough's son, Kinney Kimbrough, and Papa Assane M'Baye. The result takes the droning, physical guitar style of North Mississippi hill-country blues and coils it into an even more trance-like creation.
Alliance may be even better when the electric blues guitar drops back and the African rhythmic and vocal traditions take the fore, as on the gorgeous call-and-response "Leeliyo Leele," or when Kumba's own African guitar launches a song, as on "Maasina Tooro." — CH
Smothered & Covered
Joecephus & the George Jonestown Massacre
This second album from Joecephus & the George Jonestown Massacre is another slice of raucous alt-country/Southern rock/punkabilly built on a heavy hardcore/metal foundation, uniting two brands of white/male/working-class aggression in the manner of Hank III. The band's in-your-face vulgarity is announced with an opener dubbed "Jerk You Off My Mind." Elsewhere, the band mixes interesting covers with what are presumably originals. (The liner notes aren't very clear on songwriting attribution.)
The band cranks up the volume on Merle Haggard's jaunty "Honky Tonk Night Time Man." It's an inspired cover choice. The band's revved-up reading of Willie Nelson's "Bloody Mary Morning" turns Shotgun Willie's "family band" groove into bar-band rock music. The band's distorted, riff-heavy take on the Elvis-identified "Mystery Train" isn't quite as successful.
When the band sticks to punk-fueled honky-tonk, the trick works well enough. When things slow down, as on "She" and the steel-guitar-driven "The Ballad," vocal deficiencies become more prominent. — CH