Ian Siegal & the Mississippi Mudbloods

Candy Store Kid

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Brit blues guitarist Siegal's 2011 collaboration with various Mississippi sidemen at Cody Dickinson's Zebra Ranch studios proved so artistically rewarding that it probably didn't take much coaching from Nugene Records owner Richard Pavitt to spring for another cross-Atlantic trip to try and capture lightning in a bottle again. Some Mississippi area friends from the previous album return such as Alvin Youngblood Hart and Garry Burnside, with guests Luther Dickinson and Lightnin' Malcolm adding their special sauce to Siegal's already swamp-ready tunes. This band goes under the Mississippi Mudbloods name (Siegal's previous release was credited to the Youngest Sons), but aside from a more soulful/funk-oriented approach, helped immeasurably by the gospel-styled backing of three female vocalists on a few tracks, the vibe is similarly rootsy and earthy. Still, all the finest, most organic session dudes in the world wouldn't be worth anything if Siegal didn't have solid material. Thankfully, he's come up with arguably his best, most eclectic batch of songs, and covered some remarkable obscurities for five of the eleven selections. Garry Burnside's "Strong Woman" nails the hypnotic repeating riffs that made his uncle R.L.'s music so powerful as Siegal lays down sizzling guitar lines on a song Burnside wrote specifically for this album. Siegal's whiskeyed voice kicks everything up a few notches, especially when he growls and croons his way through the creeping, thumping "The Fear" in a baritone -- occasionally with multiple overdubs -- that is both slyly inviting and ominous. Malcolm's "So Much Trouble" features Dickinson's sitar which gives the soulful groove a cool twist, but still keeps it lodged firmly in Mississippi mud. Siegal uses clich├ęs ("I'm a cat's pajamas/I'm the bee's knees") in a gutsy funk workout that captures the edgy heart of this music in anything but a stereotypical performance that throbs and breathes. On "Hard Pressed" a punchy, very '70s fuzz bass highlights the boastful, manly lyrics that seem to be a takeoff on similar hip-hop themes. Siegal digs deep into the Little Richard catalog to resurrect "Green Power," a tough wiry slab of funk, somewhat unusual for Richard, that he turns into one of this album's highlights with a gutsy performance. It nearly trumps the original, a nifty trick for a relative newcomer. If Siegal was looking for a way to expand out from his successful British blues rock envelope, he has found it in the backwoods of Mississippi where the players and environment have clearly inspired him to produce some of his finest recorded performances. With this and his previous album, he has tapped into a sound that feels as organic as if he was born and raised next to the musicians he works with, and that's saying plenty.

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