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JAMES BLOOD ULMER
BIRTHRIGHT
BY TED DROZDOWSKI

Avant-jazz guitarist James Blood Ulmer and his producer, Vernon Reid, take a new route on Ulmerís blues odyssey, which he embarked on three albums ago. This is his first solo CD: just Ulmer, playing and singing stories plucked from his Delta childhood and his full-grown manhood. Here he transforms his early, skronking career signature, "Where Did All the Girls Come From," into a tongue-in-cheek lament. His muddy voice takes on the red-clay mumble of John Lee Hooker as he slashes out droning chords on his low-volume electric guitar. And "Take My Music Back to Church" is his way of evoking his earliest musical roots and pleading the case for the blues. "Some people think that itís the song of the devil," he sings over ruminative chords and licks, "but itís the soul of a man for sure." For sure, itís Ulmerís soul. Heís a subjective singer and player, plucking tones and chords out of his guitar at whim and playing his staccato vocal phrases wherever he likes. At his best, the blending tones from his strings evoke Hooker, again, but also the more primal sounds of stringed African instruments like the kora and the njarka. This is powerful, spiritually charged music.


Issue Date: August 19 - 25, 2005
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