Livin' with the Blues
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2004, Volume 11, #9
Written by John Metzger
Vassar Clements may be among the most distinctive bluegrass fiddle players, but on his latest endeavor Livin’ with the Blues, he sets his sights on an entirely different genre and explores it with equally adept aplomb. Surrounding himself with a few ringers who undoubtedly are well-known to blues afficionados, if not the public at large — Elvin Bishop, Norton Buffalo, Roy Rogers, David Jacobs-Strain, and Charlie Musselwhite all make appearances — certainly doesn’t hurt, but for the most part, Clements outshines them all. Adding his inventive touch to each of the album’s 15 tracks, he and his assembled talent craft a rather eclectic collection — especially considering its categorical focus — that touches upon the haunting delta blues of Skip James (Cypress Grove), the Stax soul of Booker T. & the MGs (Green Onions), the Chicago sound of Tampa Red (Dead Cats on the Line), and the Texas style of Blind Willie Johnson (Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning), while tossing in several originals that dip into swing (Fiddlin’ & Faddlin’) and New Orleans’ jazz (Mambo Boogie). Without question, there are moments on Livin’ with the Blues when the musicians fail to gel and appear largely to be going through the motions, but every time boredom and fatigue begin to take hold, Clements unleashes something surprising, striking, or downright ingenious that lifts the music from its bland depths and carries it triumphantly into another realm.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box