James Blood Ulmer’s Birthright
Heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Ulmer has always incorporated elements of rock and blues into his jazz experiments, but it was Reid who convinced the guitarist to rediscover the blues at length. Beginning in 2001 with Memphis Blood, a stellar collection of blues classics recorded with Reid in Sun Studios in Memphis, through No Escape From the Blues two years later, Ulmer has embraced and sharpened his understanding of the blues. With Birthright, Ulmer completes his journey into the heart of the blues. Recording unaccompanied, again with Reid at the board, Ulmer turns the blues into a sort of spiritual journey from which no one returns unscathed.
Along the lengthy musical sojourn that is Birthright, Ulmer makes his guitar scream, cry, dance and sing with the skill that only a master can bring to bear. Ulmer’s mournful, weathered vocals perfectly embrace the lyrics with a combination of soul, pathos, fear and passion. Birthright is a heady musical elixir, an incredible musical effort that could only be created by an artist that threw away the textbook long ago. Musically and intellectually challenging, Birthright may prove too difficult for some, though it is well worth the journey for the adventurous listener.
The Reverend’s Bottom Line
Underrated and overlooked by all but a handful of aficionados, one day in the not-too-distant future academics and musical historians will recognize James Blood Ulmer for the genius that he is and Birthright as a shining example of Ulmer’s incredible talents and far-seeing vision. (Hyena Records, 2005)
Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™ zine
Find the CD on Discogs: James Blood Ulmer’s Birthright