The River

Monday, June 11, 2007

Watermelon Slim and the Workers at Darwin's

Bill Homans, a.k.a. “Watermelon Slim” is one of the most intriguing bluesmen out there. Watermelon Slim first appeared on the music scene in the early 1970s as the only Vietnam veteran to record a protest LP during the war. In subsequent years, Slim played with a variety of famous blues stars, but his full-time job was hauling industrial waste. About two years ago, Slim left his truck-driving job and is now making a living as a full-time touring bluesman. The decision was predominantly the result of a recent and nearly fatal heart attack, and the renewed perspective on mortality that followed. Logically, why drive industrial waste around Oklahoma to dispose of when one can drive bandmates around the US to play music and entertain?

-- writeup from Northern Blues Music, Slim's label

2005 W.C. Handy Nominee for Best New Artist Debut

Tell me, can you think of a better name for a hard-rocking blues band than "the Workers?"

Let's hear it for the Workers!

In art and labor, indeed. Plenty of both were on display at Darwin's Saturday night.

The Workers, fueled by numerous cigarettes and cold beverages, labored late into the night for the 100 or so souls who came out to north Atlanta's intimate blues club.

Slim and his band were scheduled for two sets, roughly at 9 and 11. Ray and I showed up for the 9, and stuck around for the 11. We'd seen some good blues in the first set, although the mix was way off. The vocals were buried, and the rest sounded muddy. Not terrible, but for the standards of a club that takes live music seriously, surprisingly mediocre.

From the first song, however, it was obvious the band -- bass and electric guitar and drums, with Slim on harp and slide guitar -- was going to rock the house.

About a third of the way through the set, an audience member asked that they turn up Slim's mic. The lead guitarist, a young man with some hip facial hair and a dark blue bandana, reached up to a monitor and twisted a knob. The improvement was instantaneous. Finally, there was a song to follow, lyrics to give meaning to the driving music.

The second set was a transformation, a revelation, everything you come out to see and hear when you go to a blues club. Slim had his mojo workin. I couldn't decide if the band had finally gotten warmed up, if they'd further adjusted the mix (I was outside between sets), or if the music enhancers had fully kicked in.

In the second set, Slim and the Workers delivered scorching versions of "Hey, Bo Didley" "Manish Boy" and "Another Mule Kickin in Your Stall," along with Slim's own rock-inflected blues.

By midnight, Slim, 58, had downed the second half of his pint of Guinness in one gulp, the backing band members all had cigarettes dangling, and the bassist was playing off the stage while dancing with a woman in the audience.

Slim blew his harp to match the intensity of the band, often bringing it down into the crowd, and at one point blowing jazzy riffs as the blues drove him so low he disappeared beneath the crowd in front of the stage.

The group will be highly visible this summer. Their latest albums are highly acclaimed and they’ll be putting it out there for the people at numerous festivals. They’re a hot act enjoying their moment. Catch a little of the mojo if you can.

You could sell your reviews, y'know? But then we'd miss out on reading them here and you wouldn't do that to us, would ya?


Kickass review, Bruce; the phrasing of that last part smoked much like the gig.
thanks, Mike.

funny you should say that about selling them, 'cause I think I should start.

Don't worry, I'll point to them.
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