All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


Peg Leg Sam: Kickin' It

Ed Kopp By

Sign in to view read count
The late Peidmont blues harpist Peg Leg Sam (real name Arthur Jackson) was a true ramblin' bluesman who lost his right leg in 1930 when he tried to hop a freight train in North Carolina. When he wasn't riding the rails, the South Carolinian worked as an entertainer with a medicine show run by "Chief Thundercloud," a Potawotomi Indian. This show continued its run until the chief's death in the early 1970s. It was around this time that Sam recorded Kickin It!, originally released on Trix as Medicine Show Man.

Though Kickin' It is a studio recording, it presents Peg Leg Sam's typical live repertoire, an unusual mix of blues and storytelling. (The album features 13 music tracks and two monologues.) Sam had many talents, but none more amazing than this: He could play two harps simultaneously, blowing one through his mouth and the other through his nose. He sounded great blowing one harp, never mind two, and this CD is a wild showcase for all his talents.

Aside from its historical value, Kickin' It is a freewheeling rural-blues recording that's also a hell of a lot of fun. Sam's solo cuts are terrific, and his tracks with guitarists Charles Henry "Baby" Tate and Henry "Rufe" Johnson are also quite good. The two monologues are charming in an old-fashioned way, but Sam's harmonica work is the real attraction. Sam plays some astounding harp here, especially on "Lost John" and "Peg's Fox Chase." On the latter track, he creates the sounds of a foxhunt using just his harp and voice. With his exuberant, unstructured approach, Peg Leg Sam was the country blues equivalent of a free-jazzer.

Sam was also the last country bluesman to tour the U.S. with a medicine show. Back when the blues was mostly a rural genre, many bluesmen connected with these shows. Each was typically run by a "doctor" whose goal was to make money hawking homemade remedies made primarily from alcohol. (Medicine shows allowed many rural residents to circumvent local alcohol restrictions.) In order to attract people to hear his sales pitch, the good doctor would employ one or more entertainers. Much like an old-time circus, the medicine show would set up shop on the outskirts of town and announce its presence.

Peg Leg Sam was the last of an extinct breed, and a unique talent.

Track Listing: Peg Leg Sam (harmonicas, vocals); Charles Henry "Baby" Tate, Henry "Rufe" Johnson (guitars)

Personnel: Keb' Mo' (guitars, banjo, harmonica, vocals); Jim Keltner, Steve Jordan (drums); Sergio Gonzalez (percussion, drums); Reggie McBride (bass); Scarlet Rivera (violin); Greg Leisz (pedal steel guitar); Greg Phillinganes (synthesizer, pedal steel guitar, keyboards); David Mann, Lawrence Feldman (saxes); Thomas Tally (viola); Gerri Sutyak (cello); Leon Ware, Dennis Collins, Marva Hicks (backup vocals)

Title: Kickin' It | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: 32 Records


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Fill Up Your Lungs and Bellow CD/LP/Track Review
Fill Up Your Lungs and Bellow
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 22, 2018
Read Transatlantic CD/LP/Track Review
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 22, 2018
Read Criss Cross CD/LP/Track Review
Criss Cross
by Roger Farbey
Published: March 22, 2018
Read So Far CD/LP/Track Review
So Far
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 22, 2018
Read Wherever You're Starting From CD/LP/Track Review
Wherever You're Starting From
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 21, 2018
Read Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery CD/LP/Track Review
Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery
by Jerome Wilson
Published: March 21, 2018
Read "mono no aware" CD/LP/Track Review mono no aware
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 14, 2017
Read "A Thing Called Joe" CD/LP/Track Review A Thing Called Joe
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 7, 2017
Read "Atody Man" CD/LP/Track Review Atody Man
by Jerome Wilson
Published: March 5, 2018
Read "Galaxies Like Grains Of Sand" CD/LP/Track Review Galaxies Like Grains Of Sand
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 23, 2017
Read "Copenhagen Live 1964" CD/LP/Track Review Copenhagen Live 1964
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 30, 2017
Read "Book Of Rhapsodies Vol. II" CD/LP/Track Review Book Of Rhapsodies Vol. II
by Jerome Wilson
Published: October 9, 2017