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Watermelon Slim & The Workers - Live at the Ground Zero Blues Club DVD

Northern Blues Music

16 Songs - 1 hour 50:05 minutes; Bonus materials including a full hour interview

Rating: Library Quality

Styles: Modern Electric Blues; Traditional Blues; a cappella Hollers

Here is my attempt for Understatement of the Millennium: “Bill “Watermelon Slim” Homans is an American original and national treasure.”

From an interview on this DVD, Homans says of himself, “I’m a working class, master-of-none-type, grunt labor, rural person.” The interviewer’s immediate retort is, “Who also taught history.” Those two statements illustrate the paradox Homans seems to embody.

Consider: this Bluesman and his band garnered seventeen Blues Music Award nominations in four years including a record-tying six in both 2007 and 2008. In 2008, Slim and the Workers won the Blues Foundation’s Band of the Year Award. Only the likes of B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Robert Cray have landed six in a year, and Slim is the only blues artist in history with twelve in two consecutive years. But ... Watermelon Slim has been everything but a full time musician. He’s been a soldier, truck driver, forklift operator, sawmiller (where he partially lost a finger), firewood salesman, teacher, collection agent, funeral officiator, watermelon farmer, and, at times, a small time criminal.

Musically, Homans has built a remarakble reputation with his raw, impassioned intensity. Predominantly left handed, he learned to play guitar in a hospital bed in Vietnam as a wounded soldier in that war. Resting the guitar across his lap, he used a slide in his right hand. With his band, he plays with his guitar on a folding stand in front of him with a variety of slides and “mojo hands” laid out. Solo, he plays his National resonator on his lap.

He also plays a killer harp when inspired, and he writes some incredibly real and earthy songs. His vocals are gruff and sound as beat-up and road weary as his face looks.

This DVD, nominated Best Blues DVD for the 2011 Blues Music Awards, is priceless for its insights and showcasing of this American treasure. This first ever Watermelon Slim DVD of a live performance was filmed May 12, 2007, in one of the most storied Blues clubs in America -- Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale MS. This concert features special guest appearances by Charlie Musselwhite, Big George Brock, and Jimbo Mathus.

Further adding to the paradox, this gruff Bluesman is dressed in an ivory colored three piece suit with hat and shoes to match. The band is also well represented, but the overall delivery is loose and good natured as though they had no idea a DVD was being filmed. The camera crew used multiple units to get great band shots and close ups of Slim’s studied looks and song intro stories.

Song standouts include: “Devil’s Cadillac” with Slim’s unique tuning, the socially conscious “Black Water,” “Who’s Gonna Pay” featuring a harp duet with Big George Brock, and “Buick Fifty-Nine” with Charlie Musselwhite.

Most entertaining and revealing is the near hour long interview. In it, a passionate about politics and issues Slim says that he may enter politics to run for office if he ever gets a full set of teeth.

If you are passionate about the Blues and those contemporaries who perform it, one can not write Watermelon Slim off as a weirdo. Look beyond the surface, dig the songs, and especially listen to the interview. This guy is as real as a rough hewn oak beam used in Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood cabin..

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL. To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE

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