Archie Lee Hooker and The Coast to Coast Blues Band ‘Chilling’ (DixieFrog) 4/5

If the name sounds familiar, then there is close connection with blues singer extraordinaire, John Lee Hooker. Archie Lee is in fact his nephew and equally the cousin of Earl Hooker so a family musical dynasty for sure. However, this is not a tribute to the music of his uncle John and the all original compositions come directly from Archie Lee and other band members. Rather, it is a well-balanced and varied walk through blues history from folk-blues to electric, and including some melodic soul-blues on the way. It is, however, an album dedicated to the memory of John Lee Hooker who would have been one hundred years of age on 22 August 2017.

As for Archie Lee, he is very much a late starter as a professional musician and this involved making a major transition in his life aged thirteen, first of all from the rural delta to the urban city and this meant leaving behind the extreme poverty of the Mississippi Delta which was the norm for him where even basic necessities were lacking. As Hooker himself comments on the change: “I couldn’t believe my eyes looking out of the greyhound [coach] as we approached the city. I had never seen paved streets and street lights before. It felt like a different world”. This first part of the journey meant in practice stopping off in Memphis, Tennessee which is of course a key location in the evolution of the blues. An acoustic guitar intro greets the listener on ‘Moaning the blues’, which morphs into a rocking beat complete with harmonica solo from Matt Santos. The great storytelling quality to the music is showcased with slide guitar and spoken monologue by Archie Lee on ‘Don’t Tell Mama’, which is a recital of sorts on what happened to Hooker as a child in Mississippi.

Last, but by no means last, a good deal of thought and commitment, musical and financial, has gone into this project and one requiring multiple funding channels. Blues fans will want to support such a well researched and executed project that aims to showcase the very best in blues music, historical and contemporary. As ever with DixieFrog productions, a lovely packaged digipak opens up to include full lyrics and bilingual English and French notes side by side. That said, ‘Big Ass Fun’ is seemingly untranslatable!

Tim Stenhouse