Alabama Slim album “The Parlor” brings deep blues to the surface

Every once in a while, you get surprised by a new album full of old music that’s actually new.

Such is the case with the album by an 81-year-old native-Alabama bluesman named, what else, Alabama Slim. It’s titled “The Parlor” (Cornelius Chapel Records, released Jan. 29).

Its title comes from the name of the New Orleans recording studio where Slim (born Milton Frazier in Alabama, his cousin Little Freddie King (born Fread E. Martin in Mississippi) and highly credentialed drummer Ardie Dean (born Ardie Dean Strutzenberg in Iowa) spent just four hours recording these songs in New Orleans.

And speaking of a birthplace, this music was not so much born as it was conceived in the voodoo world where the deep wellspring of blues music bubbles to the surface and offers itself to those whose mojo is powerful enough to capture it.

Slim’s deep, rich vocals are caressed by his and King’s steamy guitar work, sometimes reminiscent of the hypnotic blues of the Mississippi Hill Country, with a hint of John Lee Hooker. But I don’t want to take anything away from the unique sound of this excellent album — the two guitars weave a magical deep blues texture with a rhythmic, slow-driving, spell-binding sound.

From the opening track, “Hot Foot,” with its deep, dark rhythms of “lightnin’ and thunderin’ all in my heart,” Slim slinks through a set of ten songs, including minor gems like “Rob Me Without A Gun,” “Rock With Me Momma,” “All Night Long,” “Forty Jive,” “Midnight Rider,” and “Rock Me Baby.” If you didn’t know better, you’d think he was out at the crossroads at midnight, moaning these blues.

Little Freddie King takes a vocal turn on “Freddie’s VooDoo Boogie,” with no drop-off in talent or mood. And if you’re not familiar with King, he didn’t get that name because he’s related to the great Texas guitar wizard,  Freddie King. But he did play bass with him, and, it’s said, people talked about and compared their guitar styles, and some said they sounded very similar, so Fread Martin became Little Freddie King.

All in all, this is a great blues record. It effortlessly captures the essence, the purity of the blues as it was while it was still growing. It’s a reminder of where this powerful music came from.

So, yeah, just in case it’s not quite clear, I love this album.

And by the way, Cornelius Chapel Records, which I had never heard of, seemed to anticipate my ignorance. The label motto, proudly atop its web site, is “We’ve never heard of you either”

One of the songs from “The Parlor”:

“The Parlor” tracklist:
1. Hot Foot
2. Freddie’s Voodoo Boogie
3. Rob Me Without A Gun
4. Rock With Me Momma
5. All Night Long
6. Forty Jive
7. Midnight Rider
8. Rock Me Baby
9. Someday Baby
10. Down In The Bottom

A sample of Little Freddie King:

Libation Tip:
This post was written with the smoothly insistent assistance of Famous Grouse Smoky Black scotch, laced with enough sweet amaretto to create the Godfather cocktail. Goes down almost as easy as the deepest of blues.

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