One Track Mind: Boo Boo Davis, “The Rope” (2014)

The guys at the Dutch outfit Black and Tan Records had been known for bringing notice for overlooked American bluesmen such as James “Boo Boo” Davis, Big George Jackson and Harrison Kennedy. Lately, they’ve been going further by bringing their Delta blues into the 21st century.

A few years ago, they culled some of the best cuts from their signees and released a compilation. But it was no ordinary compilation: by remixing these tracks, they turned these dusty numbers into dancefloor powerhouses while retaining every ounce of their blues aura. miX&dorp’s Blues + Beat marked a turning point of sorts for Black and Tan and what’s possible with the blues in this technologically advanced, uber-connected age.

miX&dorp, as it turned out, was only the beginning. They asked Boo Boo to record some of his tunes with only his vocal and harmonica and the BLu ACiD production team of Mischa den Haring and Jan Mittendorp worked their high tech magic on the raw takes. They added the guitars, beats and sa fair amount of programming to it to produce music that has one foot in the 1940s and the other foot in the 2010s. The resulting album What Kind of Shit Is This? is already out digitally on iTunes and Amazon, and is coming out on vinyl in late May/early June.

Don’t worry, the BLu ACiD boys took care not to tech it up too much. Davis plays a John Lee Hooker styled boogie, and the studio wizards added a stomp with a distinctive snare sonority to it, a slight, repeating keyboard figure and some barbed lead guitar. Davis’ voice and harmonica remains at the center of it all.

That’s how you do it. They don’t compromise on the integrity of the blues form that Davis toiled over for most of his seventy-four years, but they doesn’t mean a little modern kick in the pants to get the kids interested in it can hurt. It’s even got this old kid here fired up for the old blues in a new way.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst 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. Contact him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews.com.