Back in Mississippi Live
Artist: Grady Champion
Label: Earwig Music
Length: 14 tracks / 71 minutes
The first line of his promotional bio casually introduces Grady as “the youngest of 28 children.” What?! That fact alone should certainly make Mama Champion a blues singer – you can decide how much of that rubbed off on young Grady by listening to Back in Mississippi Live, Champion's recent Earwig records release.
Champion plays harmonica, guitar and (mostly) sings on fourteen classic and newly-written blues numbers on this live recording that very much feels like a night in a blues bar. Now, that's both good and bad news: the good news is that live blues in an intimate setting is often a good-time – the bad news is that the party rarely translates well back home on your stereo. Champion tries hard – real hard. At times his vocals almost come across as too stereotypically blues singer-ish (if you know what I mean).
As is often the case with minor blues artists recorded live, the result is a 'play it every now and then when you feel like it' kind of album. The playing is competent (despite a few bad notes and a slightly out of tune rhythm guitar on “Brother, Brother”) and the song selection includes enough standards to keep you happy (“Baby What You Want To Do,” “Spoonful,” “Why I Sing the Blues,” and others) and a group of originals that have a good mix of blues and soul, although “Policeman's Blues” is an uncomfortable fit of lyrics and music – the music being surprisingly light and airy considering the grim storyline.
This territory has all been so thoroughly explored that you have to be really, really good to stand out. This is by no means essential blues but it's worth a listen ...just not a very intense, concentrated one.