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Watermelon Slim received six Blues Music Awards nominations in 2008, winning Best Album and Best Band awards. Combining the six nominations this year with the six nominations he received in 2007 gives him an unprecedented twelve nominations total in consecutive years. Relentless touring and two excellent albums of his quirky hard-rocking blues over the past couple of years has resulted in the charismatic Oklahoma bluesman becoming one of the most popular artists in modern blues.
Slim’s latest effort, with his band, the Workers, is probably his best yet. No Paid Holidays (NorthernBlues Music) features his riveting brand of blues that takes the listener from the Mississippi Delta north to Chicago and back down through Oklahoma. Propelled by Slim’s scorching dobro (electric and acoustic) and his weathered vocals, along with outstanding support from the Workers (Cliff Belcher – bass, Michael Newberry – drums, Ronnie “Mack” McMullen – guitars, along with Grammy winner Dave Maxwell on keyboards for a couple of tracks), No Paid Holidays is an exhilarating ride from start to finish.
Standout tracks include the incendiary “Archetypal Blues No. 2,” which features some magnificent guitar work from Slim, and a ramped-up version of Detroit Jr.’s “Call My Job,” driven hard by Slim’s harmonica. Lee Roy Parnell adds sizzling slide guitar to “Bubba’s Blues.” “And When I Die,” the Laura Nyro-penned classic made popular by Blood, Sweat & Tears over 30 years ago, sounds for all the world like an original composition in Slim’s hands.
“Into the Sunset” is a country-flavored romp, and “Max The Baseball Clown” is a fond remembrance of Max Patkin, the legendary barnstorming baseball clown who toured minor league stadiums for over fifty years. “I’ve Got A Toothache” proves that even the most mundane events can give someone the blues with imagery so vivid you can almost feel yourself getting one. Slim closes the disc with an atmospheric cover of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Everybody’s Down On Me.”
Watermelon Slim continues to be one of the most original and vital voices currently working in the blues. Expect to hear more from him and No Paid Holidays during the 2009 Blues Music Awards.
---Graham Clarke http://www.bluenight.com/BluesBytes/wn0608.html