Stan “the Man” Hedges - Two Mule Parade
12 songs; 54:18; Suggested
Style: Delta Blues, Gospel, Americana, Roots music
So much blues; so little time! I’ll be the first to admit that I did not encounter all the great CDs of 2008. I did log in at over 125 album encounters, but when I was handed this album in late December, I discovered I had missed out on a great debut CD by a man who once turned down Buddy Guy himself with an offer to come to Chicago to “put him to work.”
Simply, this CD should deeply move people searching for something different, satisfying and real. The project is an eclectic work of provocative art mixing New Orleans grooves and Kansas City shuffles with “Fat Back” rockers, gritty storytelling, stellar acoustic and electric guitar work, and wonderful additions of harmonica, keyboards, and background vocals.
“Two Mule Parade” is longtime Tennessee Blues Guitar-Slinger Stan “The Man” Hedges’ first solo project. For Hedges, now 51, it’s been a long time coming, but with these 11 original songs and one cover, it’s payday for listeners. Having drawn many accolades over the years for his guitar work, Hedges is shown here to be a complete package, Singer/Songwriter, Storyteller/Guitarist who has paid his dues and developed a captivating style.
Hedges’ intriguing lyrical art is consistently found creating rich characters and providing eye-opening social commentary. It starts in the first track, “Angola Cowboy” with the story of a misunderstood ex-con who is struggling in the outside world. Musically, the blues open strong with “Chicago” Charlie Fink’s harmonica over both piano and drumming by Shannon Wickline.
At 12 seconds in, we hear Hedges’ deep, laidback baritone/bass vocals comparable to JJ Cale, Dr. John, and, on some numbers, Tom Waits. Miranda Louise accents Hedges’ singing with her higher register background vocals. What a great mix!
Hedges’ killer slide guitar work opens “I Can Hear the Delta,” a picturesque longing for that rich musical culture. “A lot has changed, but it’s still the same....I hope the Delta heritage don’t go down in flames/Cause I can still hear the Delta calling my name,” he sings.
The grooving minor-blues “Won’t stand the Light of Day” is a chilling and scathing attack on racism-past and present. Some great chromatic harp from “Chicago” Charlie Fink accents the overall effect of lyrics about the race issue like, “I don’t know where it’s going, but I can see where we been.... [If you are] Denying segregation [in 2008] just take a look around / Who lives next to you...?”
The title track is a weirdly nostalgic
acoustic-swamp-jazz narrative like a shot of Tennessee sour mash whiskey –
smooth, but with a burn. Literature teachers could easily pop-quiz or final exam
their students for interpretation of these poetic and accessible, yet
Hedges has a sly sense of humor shown in the Jump Blues “Snappin’ Turtle Blues,” and “Butter Yo’ Biscuits” is Delta Blues-with-a-smile in this resonator slide number.
The closing instrumental “Kentucky Skin Tag Salad” is a grooving head-cutting contest where Stan on guitar and keyboardist Shannon Wickline absolutely tear it up.
Reportedly, every single song on the CD has
received "Airplay in Rotation." The album has appealed to listeners, Radio
programmers and DJ's around the world. That is a tremendous testimonial. I just
added it to my final “best of” list for 2008!
Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL