Mattias Malm – Electric Avenue | Album Review

Mattias Malm – Electric Avenue

Self-produced CD

No website

12 songs – 36 minutes

An acoustic guitarist with a longtime love affair for Mississippi Hill Country blues, Mattias Malm served up a musical love letter to his hero, R.L. Burnside, with the well-received solo effort Malm on Burnside CD two years ago. And he follows suit with this effort, which finds him shifting into a full-band format.

Based in Malmö, Sweden, Mattias is a master of the droning, percussive, single-chord Hill Country style, and he possesses a voice steeped in the tradition, too. He teamed with fellow fret master Steve Grahn and took home top prize in the solo-duo competition at the 2009 European Blues Challenge. Longtime partners, they released two albums, That’s Alright in 2006 and Final Route in 2010.

Originally conceived as another solo effort, this album features a lineup that includes Magnus Østvang on Wurlitzer and Hammond organs and Tomas Melau on harmonica with Pontus Snibb on percussion, Thomas Larsen – best known for his work with Jason & the Scorchers — on bass and Yvette Eklund on backing vocals. The set was produced by Larsen and recorded at his Fabriken Studios in Malmo. And while Burnside’s music runs like a river throughout this one, Malm adds another dimension to his familiar material by infusing it with different influences throughout.

A military drumbeat opens “Goin’ Down South,” the first of four consecutive Burnside numbers, to open. It swings like a pendulum with Yvette doubling on choruses throughout, and addition of chords from Magnus’ organ alters the traditional Hill Country feel. Malm switches to electric guitar and Melau joins the action for a sprightly take on “Jumper on the Line” before he picks up his slide and the duo play call-and-response on “Fireman Ring the Bell.”

“Someday Baby” follows, mixing North Mississippi rhythms with occasional Windy City, Elmore James-style runs on slide, a fitting choice because it leads into a cover of Jimmy Reed’s familiar “You Don’t Have to Go,” which is delivered with Chicago flair atop a heavy two-four beat and includes a tasty, single-note six-string solo. Mattias shows his picking skills on a comfortable take on Doc Watson’s “Deep River Blues” before his light attack on the strings opens an uptempo reinterpretation of the “Pallet on the Floor,” which differs dramatically from the usual slow, sober reworkings of the standard.

A rousing version of R.L.’s “Poor Black Mattie” gives way to a fiery cover of Son House’s “Walking Blues” before two more Burnside numbers, “Miss Maybelle” and “Longhaired Doney,” precede John Lee Hooker’s “When My First Wife Left Me” to close.

Look at the song list for Electric Avenue and you might be prone to wonder why anyone would want to assemble an album of so many familiar covers. If you’re a fan of Hill Country, however, this one has a lot to offer. There’s a familiar thread throughout, but Mattias Malm’s approach presents each tune in a new light. Available as a digital download from multiple online vendors.

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