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James Blood Ulmer
No Escape From The Blues 

Review by Steve Guttenberg
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James Blood Ulmer No Escape From The Blues

CD Stock Number: Hyena TMF 9312

 

  This is one of those records that I instantly fell in love with. Hold on a sec, do you guys know Blood? He's best known as a 'lectric free jazz guitar player and a devout follower of Ornette Coleman's Harmolodic theory, but his new/old thang is the blues. Hey, jazz and blues go all the way back -- you've seen the Ken Burns' PBS Jazz series -- you know this stuff. Anyway, this new CD was recorded in Hendrix's old joint, Electric Lady Studios, and I swear I sometimes heard a bit of Hendrix’s muse channeling through – especially on "Come On." Blood’s first rarified blues assault, Memphis Blood, was committed to zeros and ones at another legendary room, Sun Studio. Both records were produced by Vernon Reid.

Anyway, the gentle banjo strums the kick off "Goin' to New York" grabbed my heart. It's a joyous beginning, full of good vibes. And the moods and colors keep shifting; the slow twangy glides ripple through "Trouble in Mind," though my favorite track is "Bright Lights, Big City" -- dig the crazy tap dancing "percussion" and Olu Dara’s oh-so soulful pocket trumpet solo. Ya see, this isn’t any old blues record; Blood’s ragged vocals and blistering fretwork avoid clichés at every turn. He alternates between thick sounding electric and sweet acoustic guitar over a mess of Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker classics and a few original tunes. Queen Esther lends her hot and heavy vocal chops here and there. Blood’s tune, "Satisfy," is at once a simple blues, but his Harmolodic licks definitely take you places ordinary blues pickers can not go. But it’s the freshness and inventive musicianship that’ll have you coming back for more.

The sound is very "live" and present; No Escape is my leading contender for Record of the Year.

 

 

Enjoyment: 98

Sound Quality: 93

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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