Memphissippi Sounds – Welcome To The Land
Little Village Foundation – 2021
9 tracks; 46.39 minutes
It was Bobby Rush who coined the term ‘Memphissippi’: “Tennessee and Mississippi, when you put them all together whatcha got? Memphissippi!” Memphissippi Sounds is a new project by two young artists applying modern sensibilities to an old tradition. With influences including funk, rap and heavy metal, the two musicians use the basic formula of Mississippi Hill Country blues and fuse their other influences to it. The two involved are Cameron Kimbrough, the grandson of Junior Kimbrough, and Damion Pearson, whose family record collection featured Parliament and The Ohio Players. Both musicians from an early age, the two met in Memphis and clicked. Damion is a harp player, Cameron a drummer, plus both sing and play guitar, so the music they create has the traditional elements of Hill Country blues but gets twists from the duo’s other musical interests. The album was produced for Little Village by West Coast harp player Aki Kumar, his first album as producer. All the material was written by Cameron and Damion and they are the only musicians involved.
Opener “Who’s Gonna Ride” is very much in the tradition, with a nagging guitar riff over basic drums and harp and a repetitive vocal which Damion adapted from a rap tune by Tupac, but the song also references George Floyd with the refrain “I Can’t breathe, take your foot off my neck, boy”. “Groove With Me” is more concerned with attracting a young lady, a snaky riff underpinning the tune. The pace quickens for “I’m Mad” though the lyrics, such as they are, are minimal: “I’m mad, baby, but I’m not upset”, repeated many times over. “You Got The Juice” is a slow, trance-like piece with minimal percussion and spoken responses to the lyrics.
A familiar title, “Crossroads”, unsurprisingly finds the duo contemplating which way to go over a funky beat and harp interjections. Perhaps having finally made their minds up, they “Go Downtown” with a hint of John Lee Hooker in the rhythms and Memphis the destination. “Saturday Morning” has an insistent rhythm that will get people dancing for sure though the lyrics are again minimal. “High & Low” lumbers along with fuzzed guitar, keening harp and a plodding rhythm; the album title comes from the only lyric on this track: “Welcome to the land, a new experience. A flavour of the old, mixed with the new”. The final track “Look Out For The Wolf” has a quieter feel, again with a touch of JLH in both the rhythms and the vocal.
This album will definitely appeal to those who enjoy Mississippi Hill Country and adds a new name to the roster of those involved in that style of blues.