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Monday, July 24, 2017

Champion Jack Dupree: Hamhark & Limer Beans


1) Hamhark & Limer Beans; 2) Let Me In I Am Drunk; 3) Somebody's Done Changed The Lock; 4) My Combi­nation For Love; 5) Walkin' The Road; 6) Phone Call; 7) (Tell Me) Who Do You Love; 8) Let's Try Over Again.

Sources documenting Champion Jack Dupree's life and travel in the Seventies are even more scarce than those that document it for earlier periods, and discographies after 1969 become even more confusing, as occasional new recording sessions get hopelessly interspersed with repacka­gings of and outtakes from earlier sessions. To the best of my understanding, after the release of The Heart Of The Blues Is Sound his productivity began to drop down; by the mid-, if not early Seventies he was back in continental Europe, too, and thus deprived of the company of rising stars on the British blues-rock scene.

The only definitively new album by the man, recorded and released in the 1970s that I know of and have access to is Hamhark & Limer Beans, allegedly dating back to a January 24, 1977 session in Paris, held by Dupree with a bunch of musicians with English and French names, not a single one of which is in any way familiar to me — so, essentially, it is back to square one and those lonesome Copenhagen sessions of the early Sixties. At least, he does have a full band, with additional keyboards, electric guitars, and a steady rhythm section. And it is also reassuring to hear that the old man's spirits had not drooped a bit: happy to go on doing what he'd already been doing, he is offering us even more rewrites of old classics and even more recyclings of old ideas, without, so it seems, getting even the slightest doubt that maybe the world around him may have finally had enough of him. Him? Champion Jack Dupree? No way. Couldn't possibly happen.

Thus we get another ʽDrinkin' Wine Spoo-Dee-Oo-Deeʼ (title track, with a fresh gastronomic twist to the lyrics and the guitarist seemingly aiming to imitate a young Keith Richards circa 1964 or so, with dubious results); another ʽLet's Try It Over One More Timeʼ (crudely retitled ʽLet's Try It Over Againʼ); another half-funny, half-silly talking blues piece (ʽPhone Callʼ, in which the old geezer briefly discusses the current political situation in America in an imaginary conver­sation with Gerald Ford on the issue of Jimmy Carter!); and a bunch of other 12-bar blues, blues ballads, and boogie standards. In short, nothing has changed, except for some names of some American presidents spinning around the immobile constant of Champion Jack.

The backing band is at least slightly fun: organist Michel Carras and lead guitarist (either Larry Martin or Paul Pechenaert, I do not know which) have a good chemistry and honestly try to intro­duce some energy and sharpness into the proceedings — but either it is the rhythm section that drags them down with lethargy, or bad production, or they just do not have the balls for the job themselves, anyway, even when the guitarist tries to sound «gruff», he is still caressing that guitar rather than whipping it, and the end result is tepid. Not that this ever bothered The Champion — he ain't here to play rock'n'roll, he is only here to tell us that, no matter what, he is still alive and no silly dilemmas like «prog vs. punk» are ever going to deter him from jotting down in his musical diary the simple everyday joys of eating baked beans, drinking corn whiskey, bedding (or, more frequently, failing to bed) beautiful (or ugly) women, and simplistically wisecracking on political matters. And the musicians — they may keep up, or they may fall out, this is not going to influence his mood one single bit.

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