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James Blood Ulmer: No Escape From the Blues

C. Michael Bailey By

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Jazz Raconteur James Blood Ulmer began his blues march with the release of 2001’s Memphis Blood . On that release Living Colour’s Vernon Reid, convinced that Ulmer was one of the last great blues singers, wanted to record the iconoclast in Memphis at the famed Sun Studios. The result was a collection of blues standards presented in a way that can only be described as enigmatic genius. Dense and dedicated, Ulmer’s blues vision is large and impressive in a Chester Burnett sort of way.



Memphis Blood is a formidable disc to follow up. Again under the direction of Vernon Reid, James Blood Ulmer has entered yet another famous studio, Electric Lady, and produced yet another weird masterpiece of the blues. No Escape from The Blues is a bit more lighthearted than Memphis Blood but still detonates in all directions like a possessed fireworks stand. Ulmer employs an impressive array of vocal techniques on this record that range from the ragged-desperate "Ghetto Child" and "Are You Glad to Be in America." Ulmer and Reid give the festivities a skiffle-band feel on "Goin’ to New York" and the original "Satisfy."



Howlin’ Wolf’s "Who’s Been Talkin’" is sung low sotto voce very effectively over a Junior Wells' "Messin’ With the Kid" riff with Leon Grunbaum’s carousel organ. "Trouble in Mind" is presented like a church hymn, Ulmer singing with a peculiar mix of innocence and menace. There is plenty of lava here as well. Vernon Reid supplies searing guitar solos that juxtapose brilliantly with Ulmer's harmolodic solo approach. Reid engineers a tsunami of sound on John Lee Hooker’s "You Know, I Know" and Muddy’s "The Blues had a Baby...." At a time when the blues was looking like a dead end, a prophet appears to show the new way. That prophet is James Blood Ulmer.



For more information, see James Blood Ulmer and Hyena Records .


Track Listing: Goin

Personnel: James Blood Ulmer

Title: No Escape From the Blues | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Hyena Records


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