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October 2021

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Memphissippi Sounds
Welcome To The Land

Little Village Foundation

Memphissippi Sounds

Memphissippi Sounds is a new young blues duo made up of Cameron Kimbrough (drums and guitar), the grandson of legendary Mississippi bluesman Junior Kimbrough, and Damon "Yellow P" Pearson (harmonica and guitar). Kimbrough grew up in a small town in North Mississippi, while Pearson brings the urban edge from his upbringing in Memphis. They bill their music as a blend of North Mississippi hill country blues, Memphis blues and soul, rock, pop, and hip-hop.

Their latest album, Welcome To The Land (Little Village), was recorded at the Sun studios in Memphis and produced by harmonica player Aki Kumar, who has appeared on other Little Village recordings. The music here is heavily rooted in the deep blues of the Mississippi hill country, paying homage to predecessors like R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Jessie Mae Hemphill and others, but with a contemporary twist to each of the nine original compositions. It's intriguing music, closer to the classic blues of the area.

Welcome To The Land opens with Pearson's original "Who's Gonna Ride," an up-tempo hill country blues that is rhythmic and hypnotic. It's designed to be a tribute to Black Lives Matter and the struggles endured by all during the pandemic, also serving as a vehicle for Pearson's outstanding harmonica playing. The slow blues "Groove With Me" is deep, dark and eerie. The vibe here isn't complex, but rather just simple foreboding blues with heavy guitar chords and more good harp accompaniment.

"I'm Mad" is framed by a steady, rhythmic drum beat and good blues guitar. This song reminds me of the music of a legendary Memphis band, The Fieldstones, that I saw multiple times at a jook joint called Green's Lounge during my occasional visits to the area during the 1980s. Listening to "I'm Mad," I can close my eyes and remember those times hearing The Fieldstones (minus the thick smoke that hung in the air at Green's Lounge). I could listen to this song over and over. "You Got the Juice" is the first song to incorporate elements of hip-hop but will still plenty of blues feeling, especially with Pearson's haunting harmonica solos. This one grew on me the more I listened to it. In fact, I could really say that about the entire album.

Would it really be a Mississippi blues album without some reference to the crossroads? We get a very contemporary version of the theme on "Crossroads." Elements of both funk and hip-hop factor in heavily but still with that Mississippi Delta blues foundation. "Go Downtown" is a mid-tempo hypnotic blues that opens with a steady bass drum beat and a strong harmonica solo. Pearson keeps melodically blowing his harp behind the vocals throughout the song.

We hear an acoustic guitar intro before the harp kicks in, leading into the hip-hop-ish vocals over a steady, pulsing beat and our singer talks about "Saturday Morning" and what he's going to do for that woman. "High & Low" is a slow, plodding blues in the hill country style, with the vocalist singing about the old mixed with the new --- kind of the whole idea of the album. Wrapping it up is another slow blues, "Look Out for the Wolf," this one with a mysterious feel to it as our singer warns that woman that he's coming for her.

Looking for hardcore Mississippi blues with a contemporary twist --- this is the album for you. If you're a traditionalist, don't be scared away by the description of the various music forms included on Welcome To The Land. This is solid blues from start to finish.

--- Bill Mitchell

 

 

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