Corey Harris continues to grow musically by leaps and bounds, taking the blues into new, often uncharted territories. His latest effort, his first for Rounder, is Downhome Sophisticate, and it basically runs the gamut of African-American musical culture, representing a continuation of the world vision that he gave us with Greens From The Garden. On this astonishing new release, Harris touches on blues, R&B, funk, Hip-Hop, Latin, Caribbean and folk, sometimes blending several genres in the same song effortlessly.
Harris has always been a good composer who tackled topical issues, but he outdoes himself on this one, whether it's the "heroine" of the lively, funky opening song, "Frankie Doris," who's looking to get rich any way she can, or the chilling imagery of police with itchy trigger fingers in "Santoro," or the apocalyptic collapse described in "Fire."
Other highlights include a revision of Mississippi Fred McDowell's "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning" (complete with the bass line from "My Sharona"), and the searing "Don't Let The Devil Ride." The Caribbean and Latin influences are prevalent in the lilting "Sista Rose" and the sensuous "Black Maria." There are also several instrumentals, ranging from the beautiful "Capitaine" to the bluesy "BB."
Harris is backed by his band, the 5 X 5, and they provide spectacular support, especially guitarist Jamal Millner (who co-produced the disc with Harris) and bassist Houston Rose. Other guests include Olu Dara, who plays wood trumpet on "Sista Rose," and Henry Butler, who contributes keyboards on three songs. Harris' guitar work is dynamite, particularly on slide (check out "Money On My Mind") and his singing has never sounded better.
Fans of Corey Harris' more traditional work might pass on this effort, but if they do, they will be missing out on some powerful music.
---- Graham Clarke
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Revised: June 30, 2002 - Version 1.00
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