The blues have long played a major role in rock music. Balling the Jack: Birth of NU-Blues is an attempt to demonstrate that influence by gathering tracks that evolved from the blues, but with added twists to the classic blues sound. This could not be considered a blues album, although the pervasiveness of the influence makes for a pretty consistent listen. There are a couple of missteps that interrupt the flow of the album: Pig in a Can's "Slow Down Train" is a bit heavy on the programming, but the use of slide guitar helps redeem the track. It's Chris Thomas King's super bass hip-hop track that really sticks out like a sore thumb. Other than that, the album works pretty well, presenting such kindred spirits as Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits, and Johnny Dowd alongside souped up old-timers like Asie Payton and R.L. Burnside, with Moby and Diamanda Galas representing other opposite ends of the spectrum. This is a wide ranging and eclectic compilation that generally succeeds more than it fails.
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AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard