Deluxe Edition

The Codetalkers Feat. Col. Bruce Hampton

Pesky Pole Records, 2004

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


I'm not quite sure when it was during my first listen to this album that I began laughing so maniacally that my 14-year-old son came in to check on me and make sure I wasn't having some sort of seizure. I think it might have been during the Japanese verse of "Rice Clients" -- but I digress.

Digression is probably as good a word as any for the musical stylings of the Codetalkers. Purveyors of Southern-fried blues -- or is it rock -- or is it electric folk -- or is it jam band -- oh hell, it's definitely Southern-fried. The Codetalkers are the nearly legendary Col. Bruce Hampton on vocals and guitar, the fairly astonishing Bobby Lee Rodgers on vocals, banjo, guitar, mandolin and organ, Tyler Greenwell on drums, and somebody else on bass (it's "Swan" on the liner notes, but Ted Pecchio in all the promotional materials).

The music is erratic, growly, wise and silly in the way only a pack of ornery men can be. Despite the band being a pack of grizzled veterans, this disc is as full of life as a hospital nursery.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

When you get right down to it, what the Codetalkers are about -- besides sweet, stinging blues licks and a swaggering attitude -- is storytelling. This disc overflows with memorable backwoods characters like the homicidal antagonist of "Body In The Lake," a jaunty little number about a lakeside-vacation-cum-carjacking-cum-vehicular-manslaughter. As the shaken narrator says, "Sometimes just to stay alive, you gotta make a few mistakes."

From there we get tracks that illustrate such oddities as: the adventures of a motorcycle-riding granny ("Grandma," in the midst of which Rodgers rips out a spectacular mandolin solo); the closing rant of an exceptionally bitter breakup ("Did My Time," a hilarious diatribe whose chorus goes "I tried to give you everything that you could ever need / I did my time, now it's time for you to leave"), and the aforementioned, inexplicably bizarre "Rice Clients" (think Zappa playing nightclub jazz).

Throughout we're treated to superb little moments where the music, lyrics, guitar and vocals play off one another in a perfect match of sassy attitude and spectacular playing. "Lima" goes way south of the border for a slinky goof that also features some terrific flamenco-style picking on the bridge; "UFO" rambles and scats for four minutes about "lookin' for some flyin' saucer lights" and such before crashing and burning in a giggle-inducing musical flameout; and "Beggin'" gives you five minutes of country boogie wrapped around an absolutely sizzling guitar solo.

Another highlight is the doo-woppy blues of bonus track "Something Wrong," featuring the classic line "There's gotta be something wrong with this woman I'm with / 'Cause there's sure something wrong with me." It's just the kind of winking aside you come to expect after spending forty minutes with Hampton and Rodgers, both almost-but-not-quite legendary members of the small brotherhood of Southern alternative musicians.

I won't say this disc would be for everyone - it's quirky stuff that ranges from blues to jazz to country and back (all with a Southern twist), and the vocals can be a little rough and rumbly in places. But for attitude, risk-taking and raw musical skill, it's tough to beat. Tasty.

Rating: B+

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© 2005 Jason Warburg 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 Pesky Pole Records, and is used for informational purposes only.