Written by Fantasma el Rey
From 219 Records comes two new hard-hitting blues albums, one from John Lisi and Delta Funk and the other from Ray Cashman. Connecting these two recordings is the participation of one Jimbo Mathus playing bass and other instruments on both CDs.
John Lisi and Delta Funk have been around for a few years and have put down three other albums. The new Dead Cat Bounce finds Lisi on vocals, mandolin, electric and acoustic guitars as well as dobro and lap steel. Another talented musician, Mathus, works his magic on this disc playing bass, piano and tambourine. Joining them is a fine young drummer named Cody Dickinson, who can play the electric washboard and a mean tambourine as well. He has his own band, North Mississippi Allstars, with his brother Luther.
With these three talents together the resulting album is just about as good as jumpin’, rockin’ blues can get. The title track “Dead Cat Bounce” opens hard and heavy, setting the pace for the rest of the songs that follow. The tune has a solid bounce from start to stark finish, crisp guitar, pulsating bass and steady drums.
“Woke Up Pissed (Sleep Away My Blues),” has the boys showing how blue they can get by slowing to a mid-tempo shuffle. Lisi puts down a steamy guitar solo, while Dickinson keeps time behind him perfectly on a tune about those days where all you want to do is sleep to avoid punching some one.
“Slow Down Sugar” seems like more or the same mild blues but picks up and slams back down hard towards the end of track. Dickinson kicks it up a notch while Lisi is hot on his heels with his smoking guitar, and oh yeah, Mathus is co-pilot as the three set the place on fire and reach light speed with their playing. So much for slowing down sugar!
Two more sonic numbers that are meaner than hell are “Flip Flops” and “Git’er’Gon.’” Both have a “Jimi Hendrix beyond the gates of fire” drive that makes the Kittens toss their hair and slink while the Kats are pumpin’ their fist and nodding their heads. “Flip Flops,” a rough lament about the annoyance of a girl’s footwear is even followed by “Flip Flops- Slight Return.” Need I say more?
“Git’er’Gon” is by far the “tuffest” track on “Dead Cat Bounce.” The boys are driven to madness and take you along for the ride. Dickinson hits the skin off his kit, while the others must have burned through at least one set of strings each with that much heat coming off the fret boards. This one will be spinning for awhile on my stereo.
These gentlemen work well together, from Lisi’s gravely, guitar slinger baritone to Mathus’ funky ass bass lines and Dickinson’s drumming mastery, which is always solid either on a shuffle or banging out “Tommy gun fast” rumble beats. John Lisi has a powerhouse team of house rockers at his side with these two southern gents. I hope this line-up sticks for the next CD and tour as well.
Speaking of house rockers, the second band from my friends at 219 Records simply call themselves Cashman, after the guitar-, dobro-, and bootbox-playing vocalist Ray. Accompanying him on the harmonica is Grant A. Brown and popping in on bass, stella guitar, and snare for four tracks is our hero Jimbo Mathus.
Cashman has a solid roadhouse blues sound throughout Texassippi Stomp. The vocals are strong and mean as he stomps out beats and picks and slides us into a frenzy on blazing blues rockers such as the opening “Black” or “Whatcha Doing?”
Hitting just as hard and fast are tunes such as “Pistol Blues” and the “Rollin’ And Tumblin’”-inspired “Long Road.” Two more driving blues tunes that give you the feeling of biker bars with “tuff” guys named Sonny hanging around buying drinks and ready to throw down with any one stupid enough to step out of line. While holding these tunes together is Brown’s thumping, driving, train whistle “harp” skills. Each track is propelled forward and crashes into the next by his smoke stack attack
These fellas can slow it down as well and still work you over with low-down tunes like “Reefer Headed Women” and the back porch blues of “Baby” and “Trouble’s On The Way.” “Baby” finds Brown playing his best Mississippi Delta harp while “Trouble’s” got him moving west and sounding like a lonely cowhand at the end of a long drive. Cashman’s dobro playing takes center stage here and adds to the western ballad feel. Hell, these boys should put out an album of tough guy cowboy classics and move some more records.
So there you have it. Two driving and edgy blues albums from an independent label that knows good roots rock when they hear it. So here’s to good old-fashioned “tuff” music that reminds you that one beer bottle is for drinking out of while the other stays half full for bustin’ on heads. Thanks, 219 Records, and keep ‘em comin’.