miX&dorp (Various Artists) – Blues + Beat (2011)

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Netherlands-based Black And Tan Records has been doing its part to keep the blues alive since 1998, signing up artists from America and Europe like Boo Boo Davis, Big George Jackson, Billy Jones, Byther Smith, Doug MacLeod, Ernie Payne, Harrison Kennedy, Mike Andersen Band, Percy Strother, Roscoe Chenier, Sunset Travelers, Turnip Greens and Teresa James. Though these aren’t household names (at least not back in the USA), these cats play the real, undiluted, Delta blues. Only hardcore blues fans need apply.

Or not? On March 28 Black And Tan released a CD credited to miX&dorp, Blues + Beat, that’s a compilation of B&T tracks from Davis, Jackson, Jones, Kennedy and Chenier. But the tracks went through a little treatment before they got placed on this album. Called a “collection of remixes, reinventions and rejuvenations,” these twelve cuts are transformed into something a little more party ready.

Prepping the blues for a sleek, modern urban dance floor is a risky proposition, and initially I was skeptical too. Those fears were unfounded: MiX&dorp made it work by keeping the blues at the core. They (he? she?) adroitly identified the parts of each original that most gave the song its handmade, down home feel, sampled ’em, looped ’em and dropped ’em right over the programmed beats and modern mojo noises. Organica meets electronica at the middle.

That means a gritty electric slide on Davis’ “Boo Boo Who Stole The Booty” gets the focus, the blues harp riff is retained and amplified on Big George Jackson’s “What You Got” and the one-note skronky guitar shuffle gets distorted and forms the basis for the big beats on Davis’ “Dirty Dog.” “Ain’t Good Lookin'” starts with a sinister groove that only needs Billy Jones’ snarling “No, I ain’t good looking. but I know just what to do” like Howlin’ Wolf to bring the song to a Deep South back porch. The great thing about Harrison Kennedy’s “40 Acres And A Mule” is Kennedy’s soul stirring field holler vocals, which is all captured perfectly on the remix. Jones’ reggae number “Revolution Bluez” gets the Sly & Robbie treatment, while the heavily echoed sonic character heard on Davis’ “Keep On Lovin Me Baby” recalls Slim Harpo’s haunting Excello recordings with J.D. Miller in the 60s. Roscoe Chenier’s lonely acoustic slide stands in stark contrast to the churning processed rhythms on “Bad Luck.” A few songs aren’t transformed, just tastefully tweaked, like “St. Paul Woman” (Jackson).

Some purists might not like what was done to these songs, but it probably doesn’t matter much if the intention is to make new blues fans out of fans of the contemporary music scene by giving them something to latch on to. It’s not that much of a compromise to make when the blues spirit remains largely intact. Like jazz, sometimes blues needs to be pushed forward into the present in order to inspire appreciation of the great music of the past. That’s where Blues + Beat hits the mark. The blues has always been party music; now it can be played at the hippest modern parties and still feel down home.

blues + beat (CD out now !!!) by miX&dorp

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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