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Escape from the Chicken Coop

Watermelon Slim

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Album Review

Escape from the Chicken Coop is a departure of sorts for Watermelon Slim (Bill Homans), with Slim working with musicians outside of his band, the Workers, and taking a more country direction, although that doesn't mean he's become a hat act and is spewing clever clichés over slick production with an eye on Nashville. An album of truck driving songs (it's dedicated to Dave Dudley, whose version of "Six Days on the Road" is the truck driving anthem of all time), Escape from the Chicken Coop isn't really all that different than Slim's previous albums, and while the blues elements may be muted a bit here, this set isn't a radical departure in form. Maybe that's because, at the root, the difference between blues and country is really a matter of approach — the themes in both genres have always been basically the same. And Slim knows a thing or two about truck driving. He supported his family for years driving trucks — as a card-carrying MENSA member, he had to be one of the smartest drivers out there on the road — and he would write and sing songs to himself to pass the time on long hauls. So the songs collected here aren't some fancy imagined facsimiles of the truck driving musical genre, they're the real deal. That said, these sides still have that wonderfully loose, ragged, and wry blues feel that Slim has always done so well, and Escape from the Chicken Coop fits right in with his previous recorded work — it isn't a departure so much as a refinement. Among the highlights here are the gorgeous "Should I Have Done More," the traditional-sounding "300 Miles," and a striking re-imagining of Roy Acuff's classic "Wreck on the Highway." Slim's many fans won't be disappointed by this release. It's still a blues album, really, at least the way Slim marks out the territory. It's also affirming, joyous, and appropriately somber by turns, giving a fresh new meaning to the term "country blues."

Biography

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Watermelon Slim (his real name is Bill Homans) was born in Boston but raised in North Carolina, where, he says, he was first exposed to the blues at the age of five. He sang in choirs and glee clubs as a child, but he began seriously turning to music after a tour of duty in Vietnam that ended in 1970. He independently released the furiously antiwar album Merry Airbrakes in 1973. Although he has spent most of his adult life as a blue-collar laborer (mostly as a truck driver), Homans still found a...
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Escape from the Chicken Coop, Watermelon Slim
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