Filmore Sims – Walking On Dangerous Ground
(no web site for album)
CD: 10 songs; 47:08
style: Down-home blues
On the one-page CD insert of my copy of the elusive album Walkin’ On Dangerous Ground by Filmore Sims, someone has hand-written “Clarence Sims is Fillmore Slim.” That’s true enough, notwithstanding the extra “l” in “Fillmore” (or the missing one on the CD itself), and that’s most of the info provided on the album besides the song titles. The sheet does list John Clifton on harmonica and guitar, but who else plays (guitar, piano, bass, drums), who wrote the songs, who put out the album and when, are all unknown.
Clarence Sims’s résumé seems more in tune with hiphop than blues. He’s a former pimp, who figures prominently in the 1999 film “American Pimp” but also celebrates pimpdom in The GodFather: The Real Fillmore Slim where a group of articulate and sometimes funny pimps can almost make you forget what a lousy business they are in. Sims did his time for it, and if he hasn’t come to see it in a more enlightened way, at least he seems to be retired from that line of work.
Sims emerged as a major blues artist performing at the famed Eli’s Mile High club in Oakland and recording his debut album Born To Sing The Blues as Clarence “Guitar” Sims for club owner Troyce Key. He took full advantage of growing up in New Orleans to hone his talent and become a true, convincing blues singer. On albums after that, he has used his pimp-nickname Fillmore Slim (named after Fillmore Street in San Francisco, his work territory).
On Walkin’ On Dangerous Ground Sims’ band is at times just perfectly slightly out-of-tune, and the not-quite hi-fi audio quality also works to his advantage. It is refreshing to hear songs with the rough-hewn inexactness of real blues and a true blues singer singing them, in this era of blues-rock and an endless parade of “guitar-Gods.” Sims opens with a song about his own Louisiana heritage “I’ll Play The Blues” and then proceeds to do just that.
“Dedicated To Johnny,” a tribute to his friend Johnny “Guitar” Watson, is funky and grainy. Most of the other songs offer standard fare situations that blues songs take on – – initial attraction before knowing anything about the person in “The Lady And The Stranger” and the dangers in seeing a married woman in the album’s title track. On “Blues Doctor” Sims offers to write a blues prescription for his “patient;” on “Application For A New Love” he seeks a new partner after his current one has wronged him. The only actual disappointment is “Young Superfly” which is a take-off on Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly” that doesn’t quite take off.
The last two songs may provide a clue as to why this album is so hard to locate. Each is an exact match for a song on a 1996 album by “Fillmore Sims” (with two l’s in “Fillmore”) called It’s Going To Be My Time After While from the Uptown Video label, and all the songs do sound like they were recorded at one time and place. Hey, buddy, come over here in the alley; wanna buy a cool blues CD?