Corey Harris: Greens from the garden
If blues is a healer, then blues is also a prism, a distorting mirror, an overloaded amplifier. John Lee Hooker was never confused with Hendrix or Robert Johnston. The flavour of Corey Harris's blues is telegraphed by the name of his record label, Alligator. The 'gator is of the South, the bayous and Cajuns, the stinking summer heat.
'Greens from the garden' was the breakthrough album for Harris, even though it is not your garden variety CD. It has a unique taste, part cooking in the kitchen, part hot wires. Eight of the twenty tracks are sound bites of interview with some of Harris' neighbours. The subject is greens, slave food, africanised dishes that would have nourished the first generation of Africa's ambassadors when they arrived in the New World carrying the seeds of jazz and blues within them. Don't go to this CD looking for another "When the levee breaks". Harris worships 'Jah the Head Creator' and it is through this prism that he processes the world. "Basehead" compares cocaine addiction to slavery ("Grampa told Junior, he told Junior, 'bout them slavery days") while Harris's guitar slashes away at the rest of the band. It is no surprise that he includes "Just a closer walk with thee" here, but it is surprising to hear the skanking beat his band ties in its tail. I-and-I worship Jah and a good dub drives I-and-I closer to Jah. Jah Rasta Far I!
Harris' instuments are different flavours of slide guitar and his voice is barbed wire and honey. He is a moraliser, but my mind wanders off his message into the vibes of his dread-equipped band. Guests include pianist Henry Butler and members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Together, their net catches the rags and acoustic blues of the early years of last century, Creole funk and gear-changing reggae.
Blues blues blues and a real hoot. Almost as good as being there. You don't have to worry about the panhandlers in Bourbon Street.