Little Freddie King – Blues Medicine
Made Wright Records – 2022
10 tracks; 42 minutes
Little Freddie King has led an eventful life, having been involved in stabbings, shootings, a near fatal bike accident, a serious stomach ulcer and the 2005 hurricane. Despite all that, he remains one of the last New Orleans bluesman and, at 82 years of age, delivers a new album for which he wrote eight new songs in collaboration with drummer and producer ‘Wacko’ Wade Wright. Freddie plays guitar and sings, accompanied by his regular band: drummer Wade, Robert J Snow Sr. on bass and Robert Louis Di Julio on harp, plus occasional keys, sax and slide guitar from Ricky Stelma, Dominick Grillo and Vasti Jackson respectively. The set was recorded in New Orleans and sounds a very relaxed and engaging occasion.
Opener “Crazy Woman” sets out the stall for the disc with relaxed keys, harp and guitar before Freddie enters with his world-weary vocals – a classic blues shuffle. “Two Timer” is a similarly relaxed tune with rolling piano and harp work and sax makes its sole appearance on “Coke No Ice”, a relaxed instrumental with some fine piano work; a second instrumental, the busy “Two Wheel Cadillac”, closes the album with some excellent fretwork from Freddie. “We Are Through” has a gently funky base from Wade’s use of the drum rims as the main sort of percussion beneath Freddie’s vocals which describe a relationship that has clearly run its course. The harp has a prominent role alongside the piano on the more uptempo shuffle “Don’t Worry About Me”, a title that is apparently intended to reassure as Freddie intends to go “play in New Orleans, buy myself a gun, all the other men they got themselves one”! Some of the songs seem to be autobiographical, like “Fatherless”, Vasti Jackson’s slide work the perfect accompaniment for such a sad tale; “Canal St Corner Bar” is a slice of life in New Orleans, described by Freddie as “just another night in paradise”, a somewhat ironic comment given the drunken revelries described!
There are two covers included: Jimmy Reed’s “Caress Me Baby” and, perhaps more surprisingly, Hank Williams’ “Dust On The Bible”, Freddie’s down home version of the two songs simply demonstrating that blues and country are never as far apart as we might think. This is classic blues without any shredding or rock influences, as befits a Southern gentleman in his eighties.