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Watermelon Slim and Super Chikan - Okiesippi Blues

Northern Blues

Okiesippi Blues is an imaginative pairing that brings together two Clarksdale, Mississippi bluesmen in a sparse, stripped-down, rough-hewn sound. While field hollers, rambling stories, and songs evoking truckers’ slang on citizens band radio may not be for everyone, these facets of the blues work with Watermelon Slim and Super Chikan at the helm. “Trucking Blues” features a spirited discussion of Chikan’s Peterbuilt trying to keep up with Slim’s freight-shaker, and there’s the usual nod warning about “smokey” and a reference to a certain set of “blonde seat covers.” Each has spent hours and days behind the wheel of big rigs as longhaul truckers, and “Trucking Blues” is a highlight of this CD based on their prior careers.

The CD’s title recognizes each bluesman’s home: Slim has spent decades in Oklahoma while Chikan has been a lifelong Mississipian. “Northwest Regional Medical Center Blues” will not endear Mississippi tourism officials to one of their newest neighbors, but this rambling story tells the sad story of a one-way ticket out of town after being mugged. Before Okiesippi Blues, I didn’t think of Slim as a Gospel singer, but “Thou Art With Me” is a spiritual song regardless of your religious affiliation.

The duo’s a cappella take on Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning” may stumble, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank the guys for a heartfelt rendering using only hand-claps and stomps in accompaniment. The CD closes with “Moonshine,” with Slim’s harp following Chikan’s deceptively simple lead guitar parts. I didn’t expect that “I’m a Little Fish” would firmly plant itself in my brain, but this silliness just shy of four minutes is memorable, partly for Super Chikan’s background vocals and partly the expert, uptempo guitar parts.

Reviewer Eric Steiner is President of the Washington Blues Society in Seattle, Washington. The Society was the recipient of the 2009 Keeping the Blues Alive Award in the blues organization category. Please visit for more information on the Washington Blues Society.

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