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Monday, June 26, 2017

Champion Jack Dupree: And His Blues Band


1) Barrelhouse Woman; 2) Louise; 3) One Dirty Woman; 4) When Things Go Wrong; 5) Cut Down On My Over­heads; 6) Troubles; 7) Tee-Nah-Nah; 8) Caldonia; 9) Under Your Hood; 10) Come Back Baby; 11) Baby Let Me Go With You; 12) Garbage Man; 13) I Feel Like A Millionaire; 14) Right Now; 15) Georgiana; 16) Shake, Baby, Shake.

Hey, finally, after all those years, Champion Jack Dupree has a real blues band! Of his own! And, get that, not just a blues band, but a blues band Featuring Mickey Baker, like it says on the album cover! We're doing this like grown-ups — last year, in London, there was this cool chap John Mayall who did a record called Bluesbreakers Featuring Eric Clapton, and now he has provided me with an opportunity to record in London, on the Decca label, so it's only fitting that there would be somebody «featured» on my album as well... it's a whole new trend!

Seriously, all irony aside, this is the beginning of a whole new life for the Champ: for the first time ever, he is consistently being backed up by a stable, well-amplified, and, most importantly, qualified backing band. Mickey Baker was actually an old pal of the Champ's who'd already played with him in the mid-Fifties; by 1967, however, he'd also migrated to Europe, along the same lines as Dupree, and their reunion on British territory was quite fortuitous. I am not familiar with most of the other players, but the drummer is Ronnie Verrell, one of Britain's finest big band jazz drummers, and his individual style can certainly raise an eyebrow — he specifically caught my ear with some deliciously loud and even «vulgar» (so to speak) fills on ʽBaby Let Me Go With Youʼ (a transparent rewrite of ʽBaby Let Me Take You Homeʼ), where the arrogance of the drums actually overwhelms the fun and tasty parts that Baker plays on guitar.

There is not much to say about the songs on the album — provided you have traced Dupree's career all the way, you have heard most of them before, and provided you know at least a little about music in general, you have heard all the other songs before just as well: for instance, ʽGeorgianaʼ is really ʽGeorgia On My Mindʼ with slightly different lyrics (for some reason — perhaps, out of some strange understanding of honesty — Dupree usually left in «keyword re­ferences» to the original lyrics when covering classics; on the other hand, ʽI Feel Like A Millio­naireʼ, ripping off ʽWhen The Saints Go Marching Inʼ, is an obvious exception), and ʽShake Baby Shakeʼ is ʽWhole Lotta Shakin' Going Onʼ back-crossed with ʽDrinkin' Wine Spoo-Dee-O-Deeʼ. But you also know that this is of no importance.

What is of importance is that the Champ is having fun, and the boys in his band are having fun, too: probably the most fun they all had since... well, ever, because the Champ never had such a tight and well-oiled band beside him. Already on the opening number, ʽBarrelhouse Womanʼ, we have a cool funky brass section, an amusing whistle echoing Dupree's vocal melody in the back­ground — and a subtle atmosphere of camaraderie that more than compensates for leaving his piano skills almost unnoticed. For the most part, his piano parts are clearly heard on the slow blues numbers (ʽLouiseʼ, etc.), but this is nowhere as interesting as the rollickin' jump blues. An insane percussion part and a hilarious bass solo on ʽOne Dirty Womanʼ; a quirky-quacky lead guitar part on ʽCaldoniaʼ; the abovementioned crude drum fills on ʽBaby Let Me Go With Youʼ; the collective choo-choo train effort on ʽShake, Baby, Shakeʼ — there's so much simple, naïve, totally efficient fun on this album, it makes me forget and forgive all the mind-numbing repeti­tiveness and formulaicness of the Champ's underwhelming Copenhagen period.

Even something like ʽTroublesʼ, a laid-back dialog between Dupree and Baker, lazily strumming their guitar and tinkling their piano, as they jokingly discuss each other's problems of the past and of the present, is hilarious — to be honest, I do not understand even half of it, particularly since the Champion is laying his exaggerated «hare-lipped accent» on real thick, but on the whole, the dialog will definitely appeal to any fan of the Wu-Tang Clan, if you know what I mean. Ines­capable filler issues aside, this is a major exercise in self-rejuvenation here, and the first serious argument to prove that the Champion's emigration to the relative safety of the European musical community might not have been such a terrible mistake. Thumbs up.

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