Delta blues from a well schooled practitioner

Leroy Jodie Pierson: Country Blues
Gravel Road Music, 2007

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On our way out of town to go camping last week, we stopped by our post office box downtown to pick up the mail. Perfect timing. Our friend Don in St. Louis had mailed us Leroy Pierson’s excellent new CD, Country Blues. By the time we got onto I-94 on our way to Michigan, the pure, clean notes of his National steel slide guitar filled the car. Well, that and people and pillows and reading material and maps and binoculars and… We could tell we were in for a great road trip.

I wrote about Leroy a while back when we’d seen him live in St. Louis. Scroll down a bit here and you’ll find a little more about him and his music.

Leroy comes by his considerable blues skills honestly. He’s studied and played with the likes of Mississippi Fred McDowell, Johnny Shines, Son House, Brownie McGhee and St. Louis blues legend Henry Townsend. And it shows—in his flawless guitar and his soulful vocals.

Country Blues is just what the name says. Music from the cotton fields, sharecropper farms and roadside juke joints of the Mississippi Delta. Whether acoustic or electrified, this is music that hasn’t made it up to Chicago and been citified into urban blues. And Leroy strips it down to its essence here. On six of the twelve tracks, it’s just him and his guitar, either a vintage Style-O National steel guitar or his National Resolectric. On the other six, he’s joined by guitarist Ken MacSwan. Ken’s subtle, understated playing blends beautifully with Leroy’s guitar work. Close your eyes and you could be on the front porch of some shotgun shack along a stretch of Highway 61.

Perhaps the most haunting track on this deceptively simple, stellar disk is Mance Lipscomb’s God Moved on the Water, the story of the Titanic told so plainly, so heartbreakingly: “The fourteenth day of April, the year was 1912, when the Titanic struck the iceberg. It’s almost too sad to tell.”

Many promising bluesmen have ventured off into more lucrative but less interesting genres. Keb’ Mo’ comes to mind—his occasional blues tunes are breathtakingly beautiful, but his albums are increasingly filled with forgettable singer songwriter dross. Not Leroy. He faithfully carries the blues torch—and it burns brightly here on Country Blues.

Listen to some samples through his website. Then buy it. Better yet, catch him live in St. Louis at BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups and buy it from the man himself.

Back to Blue Kitchen

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2 Responses to “Delta blues from a well schooled practitioner”

  1. Grooliagilt Says:

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  2. Terry B Says:

    Grooliagilt—Hi. I don’t think you can add it at this point. This blog is no longer active. I leave it live because people occasionally like to read old posts. Thanks for your interest, though!

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