Ah, the blues. There are generally two kinds; the slick, middle-aged, carpet slippers variety, and the real deal. If you have a passing acquaintance with Damaged Goods records, you will know that Billy Childish, in all his various guises, is one of Britain’s most prolific musicians. You will also know that he is the real deal. As far as it is possible for an artist to be the real deal; he is all too aware of the dichotomy.
While I am a fan, I am nowhere near owning his back catalogue. It is simply immense. Any given year, blink, and you’ll miss several of his albums. This, the third album by The Chatham Singers, is “less country, no poetry” and full of primal, dirty blues riffs. Simple, to the point of cave-dwelling, as is the production. Perfect.
The trio of Billy, Julie and Wolf are joined here by Jim Riley; a harmonica player of no small talent. The twelve songs, originals and covers, are like hearing the nascent, blues hungry Stones first practices in a scout hall, minus the glossy sheen. Yes, this is skeletal blues from the deeply odd Medway delta.
‘The Good Times Are Killing Me’, and Slim Harpo’s ‘Got Love If You Want It’ put the harmonica to good use, the guitar taking a back seat. ‘Ranscombe Farm Boogie’ evokes a rhythm of ‘Shake Your Hips’. There is a stark version of his classic ‘All My Feelings Denied’, and ‘Wiley Coyote’ is at ‘Little Red Rooster’ tempo.
‘Why Did I Destroy Our Love?’ ups the pace, before the album’s dark jewel that is ‘My Love For You’. Sinister and brooding, it stands apart from the other songs, for me. A great case of “I really wish I’d written that”.
‘What’s Wrong With Me’ and ‘You Wonder Why I’m Hurting’ bring it all to a swampy ending. It’s safe to say I listened to far too much blues at a young age, so I’m fussy now about what I’ll risk listening to. Where can you go after Slim Harpo and Little Walter? But, if you’re in the mood, this is the stuff.
Buy ‘King Of The Medway Delta’ Here