The Chatham Singers / Billy Childish

Kings of the Medway Delta

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Billy Childish has been making records for over 40 years, and one could imagine he could do it while taking a nap by now, except for the fact that he sounds far too engaged to be asleep at the switch. His formula for most of his recorded work is set in stone: rough electric guitar, his harsh reedy vocals, a competent but not at all fancy rhythm section in the back, and lo-fi recording that leans to the tinny and overloaded. What makes Childish's music compelling despite its consistency is the keen passion of his performances and his willingness to bare his soul for all the world to see, and that applies to his blues-oriented project Wild Billy Childish & the Chatham Singers as much as his garage punk combos the Buff Medways, the Musicians of the British Empire, or CTMF. 2020's Kings of the Medway Delta splits the difference between Childish's fondness for the spare storytelling of acoustic country blues and the lean, feral attack of electric Chicago sounds; while the songs and structures often lean to rural blues standards of the '30s, the music is full-on electric blues full of slashing guitar and blues harp, like a vintage Chess Records session moved to an untreated basement. This is as raw and forceful as you'd expect from Childish, and he brings a genuine authority to standards like "The Good Times Are Killing Me" and "Got Love If You Want It," while sounding unflinchingly personal on originals such as "You Wonder Why I'm Hurting," "What's Wrong with Me," and his much-recorded "All My Feelings Denied." There isn't anything startlingly new or different about Kings of the Medway Delta that will surprise fans, but in the great tradition of John Lee Hooker, Billy Childish is someone who can keep on doing the same thing while investing it with enough power, intensity, and honesty that it never loses its ability to drawn the listener in. If you've ever wished that your old Little Walter records didn't sound so slick, Kings of the Medway Delta should be just the thing for you.

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