Is there nothing that Samuel L. Jackson can’t do? (Well okay, he couldn’t get tons of folks to buy tickets to see Snakes on a Plane but we’ll cut the brother some slack on that one…there was no way the finished movie was going to live up to the internet hype…)
Here on the soundtrack to Black Snake Moan (I haven’t seen the movie myself…looks like a “wait for Netflix” picture for me) our man Sam holds his own as blues singer (I’m not saying he should quit his day job…dude’s no Muddy Waters or anything…but he acquits himself better than some other actors who decided they needed to be singers…and yes I’m looking at you Bruce Willis, Eddie Murphy, Don Johnson, Russell Crowe, Steven Seagal, and too many others to go into here…)
This soundtrack is a rough and tumble, down and dirty journey through the delta blues in many of its myriad incarnations: thick swampy rock and roll (The Black Keys’ muscular “When the Lights Go Out”, the slow lope of John Doe’s “The Losing Kind”), down home tales of woe and redemption told with rough hewn vocal and simple but effective chord progressions (Jessie Mae Hemphill’s quietly-wrenching “Standing in my Doorway Crying”, Bobby Rush’s randy tribute to his woman and her cooking “Chicken Heads”), and country folk blues (Precious Bryant’s wistful “Morning Train”).
Not everything works…Outrageous Cherry’s sonic attack on “Lord Have Mercy on Me” is powerful but the vocals don’t have the soulful heft of the blues and so the tune ends up sounding tepid despite the big tangle of aggressive electric guitars.
Scott B. Bomar’s short instrumental interludes interspersed throughout the disc all ring with authentic blues flavor as, of course, do the two brief spoken word tributes to the blues by Son House.
The CD ends with bluesmen old and young: the late, great R.L. Burnside bringing soulful gravitas to “Old Black Mattie” and the North Mississippi Allstars bringing the proceedings to a rocking, engaging conclusion with “Mean Ol’ Wind Died Down”.
Black Snake Moan probably won’t bring delta blues into the musical mainstream but it is a very tasty sampler just the same.
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More MKW Blogstuff: Bread and Roses