James Blood Ulmer – Bad Blood in the City: The Piety Street Sessions

Bad Blood in the City: The Piety Street Sessions

A collection of songs inspired by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, this is one of the best albums of the year. Vernon Reid returns to produce (and supply guitar in spots), and the band is truly wonderful, especially Charlie Burnham on fiddle, who supplies sublime, pleasing solos.

The funky rock of “Survivors of the Hurricane” is a tip of the hat to the residents of New Orleans, and Ulmer’s voice, as always, is expressive and distinct. “Katrina” is a standard blues, spooky in a way most blues artists only dream about. “Let’s Talk About Jesus” looks to a higher power for answers to Katrina, and contains some of the finest guitar work on the record with scratchy, funky guitar. The album’s final track, “Old Slave Master,” is an Ulmer original stomper that lets his feelings shine through – and it’s not for the faint of heart!

While there are tough songs here, the covers are also inspired. John Lee Hooker’s “This Land is No One’s Land” is an amazing piece that resonates as well as ever. While Ulmer has a unique voice, it’s a reminder of Hooker’s influence on him. Willie Dixon’s “Dead Presidents” is given a rollicking treatment with a great vocal and fine fiddle solo from Burnham. The classic “Backwater Blues” talks about losing everything you have to rising water, with lyrics seemingly custom-fit and the amazing guitars that cover the gamut from country blues to jazz.

Ulmer cannot be pigeonholed, and though this disc will be tough to follow, he gives no reason to doubt that he’s fully capable.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. ’07 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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