Monday, June 04, 2007

Watermelon Slim and The Workers

In addition to cleaning out the kitchen junk drawer, my sock drawer and my daughters' Barbie bins (don't ask...I have no idea what fit of anal retentiveness took over this weekend, but it's all good now...it's over...all of the Barbie paraphernalia is gone and what remains are these partially clad, partially bald, sometimes headless, icons of beauty...I even spent the extra time dressing them just for you)...


...anyway, in addition to that, we managed to squeeze in another blues concert at the now legendary Knuckleheads blues and honky tonk bar down in the barrio, sitting right on the train tracks. The constant toot of train whistles in the not-so-distant background is the perfect backdrop for the blues. As soon as I can figure out how to upload my 197 MB video file using dial-up, I'll share with you more of the experience. For now, a photo will have to suffice.


The guy playing the dobro slide guitar (left-handed even) is Watermelon Slim (Bill Homans). The other guys are The Workers. In addition to playing his slide guitar using old airplane-sized wine bottles as slides, Watermelon plays a mean blues harp and has a solid grasp on the blues. And he has a blog. During an intermission, I had the chance to talk with him a bit while he signed my CD and asked him about his involvement in MENSA. He says his IQ has taken quite a dive over the years, that back in the 70's he tested at well over 200. Over the years it has steadily declined and now measures around 142. I guess hard living will do that to a man. He seems to have turned a corner though, perhaps following a severe heart attack in 2002. He's working for God now and it shows. I could tell in just a few short minutes that this man has a lot packed in that blue-collar, truck driving, blues playing head of his. I was intrigued.

These words from Steve Leggett, at the All Music Guide, where he is reviewing Slim's 2006 album that was nominated for many coveted blues music awards, capture Watermelon Slim better than I could:

"The sound on this record (which was produced by Chris Wick, who also plays bass on one of the tracks) is simply huge, and yet Slim's songs and field holler vocals keep it all appropriately intimate, making this release one of the best contemporary blues albums in years. On the surface Slim (his real name is Bill Homans) seems always to be working on the edge of parody, but this ex-truck driver who is also a member of MENSA (and owns several university degrees) is after bigger things. His passion for the blues makes these songs pulse with a gospel-like joy and intensity, and his new band the Workers gives him the kind of raggedly perfect backdrop to make it all slam home......This remarkable set is capped off by the closing "Eau de Boue," which outlines Slim's passionate devotion and commitment to the blues, and since he is perhaps the smartest ex-truck driver to ever sing this stuff, Slim sings it in French, maybe just because he can. For Watermelon Slim the blues isn't so much a musical genre as it is a calling, and beyond that, a shot at redemption. This guy is the real deal, and this is a great album."




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4 Comments:

At 11:06 PM, June 04, 2007, Blogger Janie said...

I'll have to get that CD for one of my coworkers...is it readily available? Thanks for the tip!

 
At 1:39 AM, June 05, 2007, Blogger Gwynne said...

I'm sure you can get it on Amazon...but it should also be readily available anyplace that has a sizeable "blues" section.

 
At 7:31 AM, June 05, 2007, Blogger DarkoV said...

Envious over here.
Picked up this album last year. As you know, it takes a little while to get used to his voice; not a pitch one'd associate with Mensa. But the playng is terrific. "Check Writing Woman" and "Possum Hand" are my personal favorites and "Folding Money Blues" comes in a close third. I'd never heard of him before but this cd stuck out because of Mr. W. Slim's , uhhhm, visage. Don't think it's possible to have a more Blues face than he has. And waht is it with that Texas Bolo tie?

Currently listening to his new album, The Wheel Man. I swear I'd just heard him being interviewed on NPR recently discussing this cd. NPR, MENSA, WAtermelon Slim. Yeah, it all makes sense. AN additional bonus on this cd is that another Slim, Mr. Magic Slim (my all-time favorite live blues performer) joins Watermelon on the title track.

The label that issued these two cds, Northern Blues, is a Canadian outfit! Mem Shannon, the great New Orleans taxi driver/blues guitarist is naother great act on this Canuck record compnay.

One of their other artists, Janiva Magness is well worth listening to as well.

Great post, Gwynne.

 
At 11:16 AM, June 06, 2007, Blogger Gwynne said...

Darko, I bought the Wheel Man CD at the concert, and the title track on that is my favorite so far. I'm a fan of Magic Slim also and the two make for a great combo. I've ordered the 2006 CD now that I know I like him as well in the studio as in person...that's not always the case. You're right about his voice and seeing him in person I realize a big part of his sound stems from a fairly severe underbite. His appearance and his slight awkwardness on stage reminds me a little bit of Tom Waits. He's a kick to watch with his quasi-Michael Jackson parody dance moves on stage and his love of the fans (he spent a lot of time off the stage and in the audience). Oh, and the bolo tie? Did you notice he's wearing three ties in the picture I posted...one standard and two bolos. He's from Okie City and he's got a lot of Native American Indian blood in him, so I think the bolos fit. I'll check out those other Northern Blues artists you recommend...thanks!

 

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