Sunday, February 24, 2008

James Blood Ulmer - Blues Preacher (DIW/Columbia, 1992)

This was not one of Ulmer's most well received albums, getting harsh reviews on allmusic and the Penguin Guide amongst others. But in the light of Ulmer's re-making himself into something of a modern day bluesman with the help of Vernon Reid, it deserves another look. While the popping electric bass and glossy early 90's production date the project a little bit, Ulmer's guitar playing is as sharp as ever, throwing off shards of electricity in an unpredictable manner. His mush-mouthed vocals are a matter of taste, however. When you can make out the words, much of Ulmer's writing has an alluring level of social consciousness to it, like the pleas for tolerance in "Justice for All" and "Blues Allright." "Jazz is the Teacher" is a theme he's come back to several times before and after, and it works well here. Okay, so that vocal duet at the end is cheesy enough for Frito-Lay... So while it is certainly not at the level of the epochal Tales of Captain Black LP or his recent forays into blues revisionism, this is an Ulmer project that (for fans at least) shouldn't be overlooked.

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