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Ernie Vincent - Bayou Road Blues

Montegut Street Records

10 tracks - Total time: 34:09

Ernie Vincent’s Bayou Road Blues came unexpectedly to me in the mail from Jerry Moran, music photographer (he did the photo work for Cyril Neville’s Brand New Blues) and Vincent’s manager. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise indeed.

Bayou Road Blues is a throwback to the folk recordings of the 1960s, an acoustic Delta guitar blues CD unadorned by the drums and bass of most modern-day folk recordings, and a departure from Ernie Vincent’s traditional electric musical style. Known as the Funk’n Blues Legend of New Orleans, he had a massive cult hit in 1972 with the funk dance tune, “Dap Walk,” performed with his band, the Top Notes. This song drew attention to Vincent worldwide, continues in popularity, and was even featured on “Sex and the City.” Also used commercially was another funk hit of his, “Things Are Better.” An adept electric guitar player, Ernie Vincent is adept on acoustic blues guitar as well, as Bayou Road Blues positively attests.

All ten songs on the CD are Vincent originals, many of them referencing his Louisiana background. While track 4, “King Bee,” and track 7, “Just Like My Woman,” loosely reference Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee” and the blues standard, “Just Like A Woman,” they are overwhelmingly original in their lyrics. The opening track, “Party on the Bayou;” track 2, “Swamp Daddy’s;” track 3, “Bayou Road;” track 5, “Mardi Gras Chief;” and track 8, “River City People,” directly reference his Southern Louisiana roots and his present home of New Orleans. “Party on the Bayou,” “Swamp Daddy’s” and “River City People” are songs of partying and carousing, while “Bayou Road” is about coming up in hard times. “Mardi Gras Chief” adapts the rhythm structure and melodic lines of Bo Diddley to Delta blues, and features Mardi Gras Indian Big Chief Monk Bourdreaux on tambourine with Vincent double-tracked on guitar, playing low-register Delta accompaniment with elegant higher-register single-note playing overlaid.

Track 9, “I Can’t Believe” departs from the Delta styling of the other tracks, as it is a 1950s/1960s-style soul ballad, while the ending track, “Swamp Jump Boogie,” is a rocking instrumental, with Vincent’s churning train-riff rhythm guitar providing the base on which electric guitarist West Bank Mike overlays some wildly delicious licks, making bass and drums superfluous for engendering the danceable, infectious beat.

Most able young bluesman Andrew Duhon provides “citified” second position harp on eight tracks, absent only from “Mardi Gras Chief” and “River City People.” While on most tracks he only accompanies, he plays two harp solos on “Just Like My Woman,” and also has solos on “I Can’t Believe” and “Swamp Jump Boogie.” He adds trills to his harp playing on “King Bee” to effectively imitate a bee buzzing. This combination of acoustic guitar with harp is thus reminiscent of Buddy Guy and Junior Wells’s Alone and Acoustic CD on Alligator, as well as Sonny Boy Williamson II’s 1963 acoustic work with Matt “Guitar” Murphy.

Bayou Road Blues can also be looked upon as reverse John Lee Hooker, in this respect—whereas much of Hooker’s early work could be described as the loose, loping country blues played on an electric guitar, Vincent’s songs are tight, structured and elemental in city blues fashion, but played acoustically. The same could be said of his singing, which has that same tight city blues approach, which is vigorous and compelling, but structured. Combined with his nuanced guitar work accompanied by feet tapping rhythm, the effect is one of a city blues album recorded with just acoustic guitar and harp instrumentation. Track 6, “I’m Your Snake Baby,” is really the only track that has a looser, more country feel about the lyrics. Which is by no means meant disparagingly. Bayou Road Blues has a positive ambience about it, and both Vincent and the other players are relaxed yet highly skilled and conscious in their playing. All this making Bayou Road Blues a very good listen indeed.

Reviewer George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, home of blues legends Yank Rachell and Leroy Carr, and writes a regular music column, “Blues and More” for the online Bloomington (IN) Alternative. He’s also published in the regional Indiana blues and alternative presses as well as Living Blues and Blues Access, and wrote the notes for Yank Rachell’s Delmark album, Chicago Style. He has also published on blues and pop music for the left-wing press as well, and has appeared in Against the Current and Socialism and Democracy, as well as the online Political Affairs and MRZine.

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