Watermelon Slim and the Workers - No Paid Holidays

Watermelon Slim and the Workers
No Paid Holidays

(Northern Blues)

First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2008, Volume 15, #8

Written by John Metzger

Sat August 16, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT


Watermelon Slim has a problem. He may be a terrific performer in concert, where his eclectic tastes provide the perfect accompaniment to clinking bottles and late night conversation. His recordings as a whole, however, rarely hold up to close scrutiny, faring best whenever they are broken into smaller parts. Yet, for whatever reason, he continues to reap bushels full of praise and heaps of awards in the wake of each outing that he releases. Naturally, this has given him little reason to alter his approach.

Initially, Watermelon Slimís latest set No Paid Holidays leaves the impression that he finally has broken out of his routine. The first two tracks ó Blues for Howard and Archetypal Blues No. 2 ó bristle with energy. The former tune sounds as if Levon Helm is fronting the Rolling Stones, while the latter feeds John Mayall through This Was-era Jethro Tull. In both cases, the intensity level is raised significantly by Watermelon Slimís electric slide dobro accompaniments, which churn violently beneath the surface of the material, nearly oblivious to anything else that is happening in the songs, particularly during the latter cut. Likewise, Call My Job, the subsequent selection, adopts a funky, rhythmic undercurrent on top of which Watermelon Slim blasts out a harmonica solo that flutters and twirls around the melody.

As No Paid Holidays progresses, however, its attention-grabbing, opening salvo slowly fades away, and its early blossoms fail to bear much additional fruit. Over the course of the endeavor, Watermelon Slim, once again, paints the blues as a portrait of diversity. His sweeping gestures are noble, and they very likely are why he has attracted so many outspoken fans. Yet, in spite of his broad, stylistic range, he still hasnít managed to transform all of it into something that is consistently captivating. His spoken-word bit on Iíve Got a Toothache and the minimal accompaniments on This Traveling Life as well as a cover of Laura Nyroís And When I Die undoubtedly are meant to keep the affair from falling into a monotonous roar, but they wind up sounding so tedious that they adversely disturb the setís flow. Even the mid-tempo ballad Dad in the Distance meanders ineffectively.

Thereís no question that Watermelon Slim is good at what he does, and his backing band supports him admirably throughout No Paid Holidays. Even so, the outfit is at its best when it picks up a full head of steam and tears into the blues with a vengeance. Crafting cohesive albums is not an easy feat; itís something that even the best artists have struggled at times to do. The silver lining is that No Paid Holidays is more tightly knit than its predecessor The Wheel Man, but Watermelon Slim needs to take much larger leaps toward refining his approach in order to earn all of the accolades he has been receiving. starstarstar


Of Further Interest...

Albert Collins - Live at Montreux: 1992

Lightnin' Hopkins - Hello Central: The Best of Lightnin' Hopkins

Levon Helm - Dirt Farmer


No Paid Holidays is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2008 The Music Box