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Album Review

U.K. blues musicians have been traveling to the birthplace of the music — America — for decades to add some of the country's mojo to their music. The Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac famously visited Chess studios to lay down tracks in the '60s, and others have journeyed to Memphis and New Orleans (Brit keyboardist Jon Cleary permanently relocated to the Big Easy) to soak up the vibes. But few before Ian Siegal have found their way to the wilds of north Mississippi in order to add that area's unique swamp sauce to their sound. The singer/songwriter/guitarist has always been heavily indebted to American music, so this was a logical extension of his already lauded approach. Siegal left his long time backing musicians in England to work with an ad-hoc group of sons of great blues artists, appropriately dubbed "The Youngest Sons." Three of these are offspring of deep Mississippi stalwarts whose last names (Burnside, Kimbrough, and Dickinson) are forever tied to that region's backwoods musical history. Drummer Rod Bland is the son of singer Bobby "Blue" Bland, completing the blues heritage theme. For his part, Siegal has written some of his strongest, moodiest songs that get kicked up a notch due to the tough, riff-driven performance of his supporting crew. Production is handled by the North Mississippi Allstars' Cody Dickinson, and recording was done at his Zebra Ranch studio, where he has recorded his own projects with the Hill Country Revue. The slow grind of the opening title track, matched with Siegal's gritty baritone is a match made in Southern blues heaven, as is the rest of this 11-song set. Siegal even includes a fife and drum track, a style also attached to the history of the region, in "Devil's in the Details" with impressive results. The more pop/rock tracks such as the relatively commercial "Moonshine Minnie" benefit from the extra layer of grease and grime layered over it by his band. Siegal gives way to Burnside for lead vocals on the acoustic "Garry's Nite Out," as he adds country slide stylings and also spotlights guitarist Robert Kimbrough for the wah-wah raunch of "Stud Spider." On "Hound Dog in the Manger" the group unwinds atop a slice of dark voodoo that extends to nearly eight minutes and never lags. These seem to be single-take performances as Siegal ladles his growling voice and sharp guitar over the darker groove to hypnotic, even fiery results, making it his finest and most edgy release yet.

The Skinny, Ian Siegal
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