Often times, life deals a cruel blow, and in the case of Asie Payton, we are all missing something considerable since his death in 1997 while plowing on his tractor. Payton lived his meager life working the fields in Holly Ridge, MS, perhaps the exact same ground where Charley Patton delivered his raw Delta Blues decades before. Reluctant to leave his home for long, Payton was a difficult artist to record and this is the second posthumous release on the Fat Possum label, his first was "Worried," from 1999. This is the real deal, as is a lot of what the Possum folks deliver, despite those who tend to berate the powers-that-be for issuing Mississippi Hill Country Blues with a modern twist. R.L. Burnside does, and the late Junior Kimbrough did, rate some less-than-stellar reviews due to the knob-twiddlers, but Payton's music remains pure, regardless of what effects have been spun since his passing.
Recorded over a fifteen year span from 1980 to 1994, the baker's-dozen-plus-two tracks here cover 45 minutes and from the first to the last cut, different mixes of "Back To The Bridge," as Payton delivers the goods with a soulful, world-weary voice and careening guitar, both holding the same hypnotic qualities as other Fat Possum artists. "Do Me Right" is a slice of pure Delta heart and repetitive guitar with simple percussion that was tracked at Asie's home in 1980 where his significant other can be heard commenting on the proceedings, and "1000 Years" bristles along a funked-up bottom and bed of horns while "I Got A Friend" relies heavily on Payton's dirge-like guitar, but "Need My Help" delivers the full package of looped drums and other technological advances of the 20th century. Stripping back to the bare essentials, "Livin' In So Much Pain" is merely Payton doing what he did best at a couple of Holly Ridge stores for his close friends, plying purity from his guitar and voice with no interference from the outside world and "You Got Me Doin' Things" relies on the age-old 'Catfish' theme with metallic rattling, edgy harp, and more gizmos working to keep with the present. For "Why'd You Do It," it's a return to Asie's simple yet effective guitar with a deep and pleading vocal that may remind some of Joe Carter. "Nobody But You" charges off a booming bass with more knob magic worked in and "Lose My Happy Home" will thrill both the purist and adventure seeker alike with its Delta cry-and-moan that isn't far from Howlin' Wolf territory, the consistent guitar pattern laying the foundation for one of the disc's many high points. "You Don't Want Me" strips back the fat with minimal assistance to Payton's superb guitar (seeming influenced by a bevy of past greats including Tony Hollins and Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis) and he tackles Little Walter Jacobs' catalog slicing into "Watch Yourself" with solid success thanks to some brutal slide work from Kenny Brown and Sam Carr providing the thumping backbeat, and for "Asie's Story," the simplistic bottleneck provides an additional dose of sincerity over the autobiographical lyrics.
While there will be some confusion as to who played what here, the core is Asie Payton's wonderful voice and Delta-rooted guitar chilling the senses. It's a shame that this artist was so reluctant to record his blues, but thanks to Fat Possum, who brought a number of greats forward in recent years, we have a brief look at what he was capable of, and it is pleasing throughout. It would surely be interesting to hear what this sounded like before the wizards mixed it for release, but there's no getting around what Asie Payton delivered at a few juke joints now and again. www.fatpossum.com will offer more information on this disc and a strong cross-section of other offerings; some in the pure-and-simple format and others touched up with technology up front.
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This review is copyright © 2002 by Craig Ruskey, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
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