Little Freddie King – Fired Rice & Chicken
11 tracks | 38 minutes
The best of his New Orleans recordings for the label’s two records recorded in 1994 Swamp Boogie (studio) and 1998 Sing Sang Sung (live) on one CD. It starts off with Jr. Walker & The Allstars classic “Cleo’s Back” which was featured in a big Tom Hanks’ Hollywood soundtrack for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and track two “Mean Little Woman” featured in HBO’s Treme. Little Freddie, born Fread Eugene Martin, probably made himself and the label some nice sync license pocket change on those two placements and even some performance royalties on the latter which he also wrote. Always good to see a label get an artist paid. Beyond the first two tracks this album makes a lot of sense. Pairing down the two albums into one may seem strange especially when a CD could easily contain both holding up to 80 minutes. But here it’s the quality of the program that showcases the many styles Freddie has distilled into his very own brew. A get the party started nice variety of sounds and tempos mixing instrumentals with vocals without overdoing it.
He got his name from the late great Freddie King but only from sounding like the early Hide Away era not the louder harder Shelter years of “Going Down”. He sounds more like Jimmy Reed and his cousin Lightnin’ Hopkins and Lightnin’s other cousin Albert Collins. Welcome to family! His approach is original although there is a Jimmy Reed classic on there too, “Honest I Do”, as pretty an 8 bar ditty as there ever was and Freddie shines it up nicely. There is a lot to say about these tunes, all classics in the sense that this is the familiar blues that is digging down deep and in the pocket. Never a solid ending, always taking the necessary risks that make it real, this is the sound that fans yearn for, but the new players seem to avoid.
He was born in McComb Mississippi and moved to New Orleans in 1940 at 17. He has played the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually for 42 straight years. He toured Europe with both Bo Diddley and John Lee Hooker and it shows. Freddie has synthesized those two as well. On his “You Don’t Love Me” inspired “Does She Ever Think of Me?” the original version being Bo’s “She’s Fine, She’s Mine” he goes all the way into uncountable but extremely danceable blues with half bars and the riff is a permutation of the Willie Cobb cum Jr. Wells into the Allman Brothers’s most known Filmore East version. But where those are just unique and everlastingly memorable Freddie goes off the rails and does it all simultaneously. “Bad Chicken” ends the album with a Albert Collins chicken pickin’ intro into a Rolling Stone “Memo From Turner” (Metamorphosis version-possibly Jimmy Page nobody knows) churning grind and then settle into an instrumental Bo Diddley beat fest and then goes plum crazy with his intermittent chicken squawks. Great drumming and side men are on both halves.
Dirty riffs abound but never too far from Freddie being the life of the party. This is as good a primer as any artist could have. Kudos to the label for risking criticism and taking their time making one great record that is two distinct halves. A full meal but nothing bad here and when it’s over if you’re not too full just start it from that first octave drop in what some might say is the best combination of R&B and blues ever written. Cleo’s Back! So is Freddie. Of course for those collectors who want the full enchilada just buy both records I’m sure the label won’t mind.