Libby Rae Watson & Burt Deivert – She Shimmy
Hard Danger Records
12 songs – 46 minutes
Mississippi native Libby Rae Watson teams with ex-pat American Burt Deivert and gets a helping hand from Kulturrådet, The Swedish Arts Council, for this stellar collection of traditional acoustic blues, which mixes originals that fit hand-in-glove with covers from Sam Chatmon, Jimmy Rogers and others.
A native of Pascagoula, Libby Rae was captivated by the blues as a teenager in the ‘70s after stumbling across a songbook in a music store. Always impetuous, she went fearlessly into the jukes that were still flourishing in that era to catch the creators at work as they delivered their craft as only they could. The friendship she developed with several of the musicians led to an apprenticeship at the feet of Chatmon, the last survivor of the Mississippi Sheiks, one of the true founding fathers of the art form in the ‘20s and ‘30s.
This is Watson’s fifth CD in a 40-year career that includes festival appearances around the globe and an appearance as an International Blues Challenge finalist. Using words frequently used by Chatmon, she insists: “The blues is my daily occupation!”
A native of Boston who emigrated to Sweden in the mid-‘70s, Deivert has been touring for 47 years in a career that’s produced 13 albums and included work with Eric Bibb, T-Model Ford, rockabilly superstar Wanda Jackson and more. He’s heavily influenced by another Sheik, Charlie McCoy.
This stripped-down set finds the duo sharing acoustic guitar and vocals duties with Burt adding mandolin, fiddle and bass. They receive helping hands from Charlie Musselwhite, Christy O’Leary, Bill Steber and Christer Ring (harp), Bibb (guitar and harmony vocals) and Sammy Baker (upright bass) with Ulrika Bibb and Gary and Carol Vincent providing additional vocals.
Watson’s “She Shimmy” opens the action, describing a lady who shimmies and wobbles all night long during a Saturday night on the town in Clarksdale, Miss., describing the Hill Country spirits than live within the juke’s walls in a pleasant alto and calling up images of several early bluesmen in the process. The action slows as Deivert shares the vocals for the Bo Carter classic, “I Want You to Know,” trading leads and call-and-response. The fretwork on this rag is simply out of this world.
Sexual innuendo comes to the fore in Chatmon’s “Ashtray Taxi” as Libby Rae urges her man to “throw your butts in here” atop Burt’s tasty mandolin before a take on Mississippi tunesmith Mason Arnold’s “Blue Steel,” a modern description of a gambler and hoodoo man, which follows seamlessly.
“Darkness on the Delta,” a tune made famous by Cassandra Wilson, features Musselwhite and rolls smoothly as it describes life along the levee before the Hill Country original “I Won’t Cry” puts a positive spin after being told a love affair has come to an end. Burt and Libby Rae trade vocals for a countrified take on Rogers’ Chicago blues classic, “That’s All Right,” followed by the sweet Deivert original “Cuckoo Crowed,” which describes the goofy look of love on a lady’s face when they cross paths on a railroad platform.
Watson pays tribute to first-generation superstar Big Joe Williams as she recounts meeting him in 1978. It’s entitled “Big Joe,” and she offers up a warm, lengthy spoken introduction before launching into lyrics that describe him as he sang the tune “Baby Please Don’t Go” and played his nine-string guitar. Another Arnold original, “Bluesman in My Graveyard,” precedes the traditional “Whiskey Blues” before George “Little Hat” Jones’ “Bye Bye Baby Blues” brings the set to a close.
Available direct from Watson’s website as a disc or download (address above), this one’s a must-have for anyone with a love for acoustic blues. It’s an understated treasure.