John Dee Holeman

Bull Durham Blues

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Piedmont bluesman John Dee Holeman mixes a little Texas into his North Carolina guitar approach, even covering Lightnin' Hopkins' "Give Me Back My Wig" as the first track of Bull Durham Blues, his debut album. Holeman isn't as irascible as Hopkins, with a gentle vocal approach that's closer to Mississippi John Hurt in demeanor, and his guitar playing isn't as distinctive as either Hopkins or Hurt, but he gets the job done with a good deal of charm. On songs like the easy, relaxed "Crow Jane" (a wonderful example of how to use the floating verses that are in every good bluesman's tool kit), the gentle "Little Country Gal," and the slightly paranoid "Stranger Blues," Holeman conjures up a timeless, back porch feel without getting too generic about it. The half-spoken, half-rapped "Hambone" is a clear highlight, with Holeman doing the hambone with a buckdancer's grace. Recorded in 1998 in Pinnacle, N.C., Bull Durham features Taj Mahal on several tracks helping out on bass, guitar, piano and the hambone, too.

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