The relationship between Mark Lemhouse and Memphis turned out to be a temporary one. Lemhouse has since moved on from Memphis, but whilst there, as well as buying himself a National Resonator he recorded the album "Big Lonesome Radio." Lemhouse certainly absorbed the local musical cultures, hanging out with the likes of Robert Belfour, and catching up with the records of rockabilly legend Charlie Feathers. He blended these with a big helping of originality, and came up with a masterful album.
The opening track (Tampa Red's "You Can't Get That Stuff No More") makes you sit up and pay attention right away. There is a real down home feel to the arrangement, with Lemhouse's accomplished slide guitar playing receiving sympathetic accompaniment from Scott Bomar on bass--he also doubled up as producer--and Paul Buchignani on drums. From down home, he moves to Hill Country blues with Fred McDowell's "What's The Matter With Papa's Little Angel Child," which chugs along nicely. Lemhouse's vocals on this one sound a bit like Chris Smither, but the overall feel is one that is nowadays most closely associated with RL Burnside. The feeling almost permeates Lemhouse's version of Tom Waits' "No One Can Forgive Me But My Baby."
The first original song, "Jealous Moon," almost defies categorization. There is a bit of Louisiana in there, and even Mexico(?) in places. To ensure that he cannot be pigeonholed, Lemhouse even plays a waltz that he wrote, "Edwin's Lament." Just to make doubly sure he also includes "Mercy Mia" (co-written with Bomar) which has a rockabilly foundation, and even covers Charlie Feathers' "One Hand Loose." The latter includes some particularly fine slap fiddle from Bomar.
The album rounds off with Lemhouse's take on Charles Brown's "Driftin'." If
by some unfortunate chance you nodded off whilst listening to the album, this one will wake you up. It is a raw rowdy interpretation, played on electric guitar, and makes for a cracking end to a cracking album.
"Big Lonesome Radio" is a very fine album, which no home should be without.
People who like a good down home honest earthy feel to their blues will love this one. There are plenty of identifiable reference points scattered throughout the album, but they are fitted into the Lemhouse way of doing things, rather than the other way around. The only drawback is that the album clocks in at less than 40 minutes, so you will need to make judicious use of the repeat button on the CD player. Highly recommended.
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