Vu-Du Menz

Corey Harris & Henry Butler

Alligator Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Someone in the Great Random CD Draw in the sky seems to think I need to develop a taste for N'awlins music and blues, because they keep sending me all these great CDs. The latest in the series is the new project by acoustic blues guitarist and singer Corey Harris and N'awlins piano player and singer Henry Butler, vu-du menz. (I hate standard character sets. Both "u"s in that name are supposed to have an umlaut two dots over them, the e in my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 menz should be a schwa, and the z should have a caret over it. Deal.)

Released by Chicago blues label Alligator, vu-du menz is a tribute to the thirties style of acoustic blues and Crescent City barrelhouse blues and jazz. It's somewhere between Jelly Roll Morton and Robert Johnson, at various points raw as fingernails on a blackboard and smooth as absinthe. It is the sound pure and unsanitized; there's no Bobby Troup or Harry Connick Jr here, but the sound that rang from Storyville windows during the golden age.

The CD starts off with "Let 'Em Roll", and the rolling barrelhouse chords contrast neatly with the blues shouting style in the vocals. Production is spare and neat, with the string and key sounds still present in the work; the simplicity of the engineering makes it feel like Butler and Harris are in your living room. Alligator knows blues up, down, and forward, and it shows on works like this.

vu-du menz is a balancing act between joyous celebration and serious, thoughtful blues, and the dichotomy works. Songs like "Shake What Your Mama Gave You", "If I Was Your Man", "Sugar Daddy", and "Song Of The Pipelayer" show the bawdy, good-time side of blues and barrelhouse, but "Mulberry Row" takes a hard look at the legacy of slavery, "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel?" and "Why Don't You Live So God Can Use You" are traditional spirituals. "L'esprit de James" is a wonderful instrumental, "There's No Substitute For Love" has a soulful feel to it, and "Voodoo Man" is just a brilliant piece of piano blues. And where else but on a blues album can you get the helpful interpersonal counseling of "If You Let A Man Kick You Once"?

In short, vu-du menz is a tasty, tasty piece of acoustic blues and Crescent City piano. We can only hope for more work from Harris and Butler together. If this is voudoun, then Marie Laveau can show up on my stereo any day.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Alligator Records, and is used for informational purposes only.