Watermelon Slim – BULL GOOSE ROOSTER

Despite threats to finally put the music business behind him, Watermelon Slim (aka Bill Homans) is not only back, but fully recharged in the happy company of his Workers. And if you missed him over the past few years, Slim packs a little bit of everything he’s known for into this glorious return to form: hard-rocking roadhouse blues, country, gospel and folk with the odd torch song and sensitive ballad thrown in for good measure. From the opening Tomorrow Night with its all-cylinders-firing, full band sound, Slim upgrades the Junior Wells original with his own brand of piercing harp, a driving rhythm section and scorching guitar. Yet it’s the tongue-in-cheek of the title track that reveals Watermelon ‘Rooster’ Slim for the rich character he brings to everything he does. Slim has always assaulted his blues from a learned perspective and, armed with his razor sharp electric or acoustic Dobro slide guitar, his accomplished harp style and his impassioned, Okie-dipped vocals, there’s nothing he can’t convince you of. His blue-collar upbringing melds with his complete absorption of blues tradition and, with the assistance of his equally-feral Workers, Slim transplants the past into the future, convincingly so. He may hold a Masters degree and a membership in MENSA, but this truck-driving hard case has lived the life and paid sufficient dues to sing about the blues with clear authenticity. Hear it in the intensity of his voice as he belts it out, the only other rooster in the yard. A somewhat odd combination as Slim duets with Trampled Under Foot’s Danielle Schnebelen, accompanied only by Dennis Borycki’s piano as the extreme contrast in the texture of their voices almost pulls this gentle crooner off. Dare to recognise Woody Guthrie in Slim’s hard-rocking Vigilante Man all snarling guitar and aggressive attitude. His own A Wrench In The Machine is in keeping with his penchant for protest while the age-old menace of getting stung is alive and well as he tackles Slim Harpo’s I’m A King Bee with a wall harp and ever-threatening guitars. Where Slim’s guitar stops and Ronnie ‘Mack’ McMullen’s takes over is unclear”yet Workers Michael Newberry (drums), Cliff Belcher (bass) and McMullen fit Slim’s musical style to an enthusiastic. The pinnacle track on this stellar release is the haunting Prison Walls, with its dark misery, swirling slide and Slim’s commanding vocal performance. A slide-lover’s smorgasbord, Blue Freightliner serves up simple blues, criss-crossed with biting guitars over an upbeat boogie. Likewise, the album’s sole instrumental” The Wobble a lethal boogie laden with thick harp coverage, wide-bodied guitar snarl and the highest recorded note in harp history. More humour and vengeful trucker payback comes with the country-fried Trucking Class while tackling Stan Rogers’ Northwest Passage one of two a capella covers reveals much about Slim, his taste levels, his huge heart and an overall confidence in his abilities. Following the blistering attack of The Foreign Policy Blues with the sensitive, acoustic treatment of Words Are Coming To An End (accompanied by Gary Nicholson on acoustic guitar) acknowledges Slim’s ability to bring things down to an intimate whisper illuminating an entirely different side of this barnyard rooster as it underlines why he remains such an off-the-cuff treasure.

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