Screamin’ John and TD Lind – Mr. Little Big Man
Down in the Alley Records
CD: 11 Songs, 36 Minutes
Styles: Blues Covers, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock
Mr. Little Big Man, from Britain/Kentucky-based Screamin’ John and TD Lind, is like an individual-sized bag of jalapeno chips. The serving size may be a bit meager (36 minutes), but a boatload of flavor lies inside. Just as there are different brands of crunchy sodium-imbued snacks, this duo brings their own brand of burning-hot blues to such covers as Jimmy Reed’s “Shame, Shame, Shame,” Taj Mahal’s “Jelly Roll,” and Magic Sam’s “All Your Love.” They also include tasty original numbers, with “Rollin’ Joanna” and “Reaper’s Knockin’” taking top honors. The band’s style is earthy without being crude, contemporary without being pop-ish, and blunt without being brutal. They present good, solid entertainment, unpretentious yet unique.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Glyn Johns, the album’s producer, has high praise for John and Lind: “This is a group of exceptional musicians. Which is borne out of the fact that with only three or four hours of rehearsals and only two days in a studio, they were able to come up with such impressive performances of the material on this album. This was a wonderful experience for me. It was all over in a blur, and before I knew it, I was back on a plane to London with a large grin on my face, knowing that they had accomplished something quite special.”
These indeed-exceptional musicians include Screamin’ John Hawkins on guitars; TD Lind on vocals, guitar and piano; Jeff Crane on bass and backing vocals; Paul Culligan on drums and percussion, and Joel Pinkerton on harmonica.
“Goodnight Irene” is one of the most iconic entries in the blues lexicon. Composed and performed by Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter in 1933, has inspired not only countless covers, but a John Mellencamp song and a Ken Kesey novel, Sometimes a Great Notion (his most famous work is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). “Goodnight, Irene” is a meme in the best sense of the word: everybody wants to sing it, hum it, howl it on harmonica, and strum it on guitar. From barbershop quartets to a certain gentleman nicknamed Mr. Slowhand, it’s a perennial favorite.
Why? Listen to this cover and find out. For the first time in forever, yours truly was freshly moved by its message. Screamin’ John and TD Lind perform it with the fraught passion of Dostoevsky and the melancholy of Shakespeare – Hamlet, to be exact. “To jump in the river and drown, that is the question…” In the play, it is Ophelia who drowns, but Irene just might urge our narrator to take his final plunge. That’s the power and poignancy these two contribute.
A note on “Reaper’s Walkin’” – it’s original, but you’d swear one of the prewar blues masters wrote it. Stomp and clap and enjoy yourself. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow Death “be knockin’ on your door.” It’s the perfect closer to a nearly-perfect homage album.
Mr. Little Big Man may be short, but it’s one SPICY CD!