Watermelon Slim – Traveling Man
Two discs (11 and 7 tracks respectively)
Riding high on the success of this 2019 Church of the Blues CD which was nominated for two Blues Music Awards, Watermelon Slim released this live solo double CD from two 2016 recordings in Oklahoma. Disc 1 is from The Blue Door in Oklahoma City from 9/24/16 and Disc 2 is from The Depot in Norman from 2/28/16. Most of the songs appear on Slim’s other CDs and a few appear recorded for the first time. Mixing many of his own songs and some of his favorite covers, this CD gives the listener some interesting cuts to enjoy.
His first album from 1973 Merry Airbrakes had to wait 29 years for a second one follow it. That album, Big Shoes to Fill and it’s successors brought Slim to national fame and now have resulted in 20 BMA nominations and two wins so far for his discography of 14 albums. The songs here that previously were recorded were on Big Shoes to Fill, Church of the Blues, Escape from the Chicken Coop, Into the Sunset, Jimmy Bell, Up Close & Personal, Watermelon Slim & The Workers and on his Live DVD.
The first disc starts with “Blue Freightliner” where Slim picks some cool stuff and growls out the lyrics. “Truck Driving Songs” follows, with Slim picking and crooning nicely. “Northern Blues” is new to his library of recorded music: Slim sings about winter in Massachusetts (Slim hails from Boston) and howls out the lyrics in typical Watermelon Slim fashion. He picks his guitar with abandon as the crowd falls in love with his work. “The Last Blues” follows, a post heart attack cut. “Scalemaster Blues” is next, a cut about avoiding getting ripped off in his rig. He picks out some mean licks here. “300 Miles” is a song Slims about growing up after losing his mama and being raised by a hard drinking daddy. Seminal stuff with Slim wailing about his next rest which will not be for 300 more miles. Slim breaks out the harp for “Jimmy Bell’ and lays out some cool licks. He returns to the guitar on “Highway Blues” for more well done blues from the road, his first recording of this cut. “Smokestack Lightning/Two Trains Running” mixes Howlin’ Wolf and a Blues Project Song (Slim claims it to be the Yardbirds from 1963 but I think its more like 1966 and the Blues Project) into a cool testimonial as only Slim can do. “Frisco Line” is next, more uptempo and rollicking but staying in the train theme. Slim growls deeply and picks sweetly.”Holler No. 4″ is one of a few of what Slim entitles his hollers and he hollers as few can.
Disc 2 begins with “Let It Be In Memphis” and seems to be a more “upfront” live recording. Slim picks and sings this homage to Memphis, Tennessee and picks out a cool tune. “Into the Sunset” follows, another of Slim’s cuts we’ve savored before. “John Henry” is a favorite at his shows and this is a first for him to lay down on CD. Slim picks with emotion as the guitar goes out of tune a bit but it matters not as Slim is unique. He returns to be more in tune for “Archetypcal Blues” where he picks with abandon. “Oklahoma Blues” is a song he’s sung from early in his career and more howling in Watermelon Slim style. “Devil’s Cadillac” comes from the Workers era, where Slim slides and picks about riding shotgun with the devil. He concludes this CD with “Dark Genius,” a cut about John Kennedy that Slim records for us the first time ever. It’s a cool song about Kennedy standing up to the Russians and Cubans and other things from his career before being assassinated.
If you are a Watermelon Slim fan and go get this- two shows from his career from 2016 sitting solo and playing his guitar while howling on stage- this is what Slim is all about. No accompaniment, no frills, just Slim howling and picking and sliding a bit only as he can. Four of the songs are new to his recorded repertoire; if you’ve followed him they will be familiar from his live shows. Those new to slim have an opportunity to see what this interesting and eclectic musician is all about. I enjoyed this double live solo CD- it’s well worth a listen!