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October 1998

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Chris Thomas King
Red Mud
Black Top

Chris Thomas King - Red MudThe son of Baton Rouge blues legend Tabby Thomas has had quite a diverse recording career. Chris Thomas King's last few albums have strayed quite a distance from the blues, and have been too far out there for my tastes. But on Red Mud King comes all the way back to his Louisiana roots, with an excellent collection of straight acoustic blues numbers. But this isn't strictly a retro blues disc, as there are a few numbers that incorporate elements of contemporary music.

Red Mud opens with the hauntingly stark title cut, on which King plays nice slide and uses echo on his vocals to good effect. In other words, he doesn't overdo the effects.

"If It Ain't One Thang, It's Two" is an original which has a bit of a Tracy Chapman folkie sound. King then picks up a classical acoustic guitar for a strong version of Robert Johnson's "Come On In My Kitchen," which he adds a unique touch through the use of a talk box. Another Johnson song, "Rambling On My Mind," gets a more traditional treatment.

If you want more of a pure blues sound, then listen to another original, "Sinking Feeling," on which King plays a National steel-bodied guitar and adds competent harmonica accompaniment. He then goes to the other extreme with a rap number, "Alive," which mixes synthesized strings with King's acoustic guitar and harmonica work.

The best number is a remake of papa Tabby's classic "Hoodoo Party," on which Dad makes a guest appearance on vocals. The senior Thomas also plays electric guitar and sings on the slow "Bus Station Blues."

Finally, one of the highlights of Red Mud is a version of Son House's "Death Letter Blues," with exceptional emotional vocals from King.

Chris Thomas King has been all over the blues map during his short career. Red Mud is a nice stop along the way.

- Bill Mitchell

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