Son of Skip James
Label: SPV Blue
Length: 15 tracks / 50 mins
Dion DiMucci's previous release
Bronx in Blue was a stripped down blues project with a stunning
authenticity of phrasing and a freshness that belied the ages of both the
music and musician. It had taken a surprisingly long time for him to return
to his blues roots, but it was well worth the wait. This one generally
carries on where Bronx in Blue left off, but kicks off with more
of an acoustic rock and rock feel (Chuck Berry's “Nadine” and Willie Dixon's
“My Babe”) until the twelve bar kicks in with “Hoodoo Man Blues.”
The sound is again very
crisp and full, considering that this is largely Dion playing guitar and
blues harp, with just two co-players sharing piano, organ and percussion
between them. That said, there is a slightly fuller sound this time round.
DiMucci is keen to be recognised
for his guitar work as well as his singing. On the excellent solo stomp
“Drop Down Mama” the sparkle in his guitar playing again starts flashing
like the sun on waves. There's also some lovely playing on “Preachin' Blues.”
Despite the title there
is only one of Skip James's songs here (compared with three each from Willie
Dixon and Robert Johnson), but Dion does offer two of his own, one of which
is the title track.
Dion's other track is “The
Thunderer,” a piece about Saint Jerome, whose complex lifestyle has echoes
in that of James, who reportedly led a typical bluesman's ambivalent life,
holding onto an austere religious belief, while occasionally living recklessly.
This duality is a motif etched into the disc, with Dion's own upfront faith
rubbing cheek-by-jowl against the supposed devil's music of Johnson. He
writes in the somewhat Dylanesque track (which makes Jerome sound pretty
God's angry man, his crotchety scholar
Was Saint Jerome the great name caller
Who cared not a dime for laws of libel
And in his spare time translated the Bible..
Quick to disparage all joys but learning ...
He served his master, though with complaint
He wasn't a plaster sort of saint
Skip James came to fame
just as the great Depression struck, and consequently left his blues career
to become the choir director in his father's church. He was not re-discovered
until the Newport Folk Festival in July 1964, where he met Dion, whose
own fame was huge (earning a half-million dollar advance – a vast sum for
In the CD booklet, Dion
mentions the meeting and what it all meant to him:”We talked about the
blues, guitars, Jesus and his health. He was one beautiful, shy, mysterious
dude, who sang like he was from outer space. John Hurt sat quietly smilin'
while we talked. I looked up to these guys like heroes, mentors. The early
fathers of American roots music. I wanted to get close to them any way
I could. They were all that motivated me at the center of my being!
“I define the blues a the
naked cry of the human heart longing to be in union with God. I know for
me it was all-consuming...”
This really is a straight
continuation of the last project, but why not? DiMucci has nothing left
to prove and _Bronx in Blue_ was so good that it makes sense to continue
the idea. His playing, phrasing, song selection and production style all
continue to be authentic, simple and superb.