Escape From The Chicken Coop
Northern Blues - NBM0054
Review by Georgetown Fats
I am not sure which was more troubling to read in the April/May edition of Blues Review, reading that Bill Homans, better known as Watermelon Slim, wanted to make a Country CD, Watermelon Slim was seriously considering a semi-retirement from his extensive touring schedule, or that he was intending to record in Nashville without The Workers as his backing band. Watermelon Slim already is known for playing an electrified countrified blues sound, every live Watermelon Slim show is an event, and The Workers are a road tested backing band full of accomplished musicians.
Given Fred Litwin’s track record for singing Watermelon Slim and Slim’s ability to garner countless awards with his recordings with Northern Blues, Escape from The Chicken Coop warranted consideration though the sounds of a fiddle normally cause me to break out in hives. Fred Litwin is also a musical executive willing to so it makes sense he would green light this project and surround Homans with the best of the first call musicians in Nashville.
The opening track “Caterpillar Whine”, is another up-tempo infectious tune from Blues Music’s current Renaissance Man. With a driving rhythm section, lyrics based on Slim’s truck driving past and liberal slide guitar accents and barrelhouse piano playing, Caterpillar Whine could be a track on any other Watermelon Slim recordings. Though “Skinny Women and Fat Cigars” adds a fiddle line from Stuart Duncan, there is enough blues content as to not exacerbate my fiddle allergy.
By the time the third track hits the speakers, I found myself looking for an inhaler. “You See Me Like I See You” is full on radio friendly country music. “You See Me Like I See You” is a duet with Jenny Littleton, and features Paul Franklin’s steel guitar work. If Contemporary Country is your thing, it is a tune that will resonate with you.
The gospel heavy “Wreck on The Highway” provides proof Homan’s got his start to singing in the church choirs in North Carolina. It is a convincing track full soul conveyed through Slim’s baritone vocals. “Wreck on The Highway” is slow and soulful track probably written about those who have created their own personal loss and trauma without finding their personal redemption.
“Friends on The Porch” is a convincing spoken word piece which reminds the listener Slim’s life as an academic has much influence in his sound as does his background as a long haul trucker.
The rest of the tracks are a mixed bag. If true country music is your thing, Escape From The Chicken Coop will be a welcome addition to a music library. For those who prefer the countrified electric bluesman, there are enough Country Blues tracks to help satiate those hoping there will be another Watermelon Slim release with The Workers.