Quite a few of my closest friends are vegetarians. I have no idea why this is, I have never asked them and have seen no real reason why I should pry into this as it neither alarms nor offends me. Having said that, there are occasions where I (at a percentage of carnivorousness approaching utter totality, obscuring almost all else other than crisps and the occasional Toblerone) wonder if it would be impolite if I smuggled a Pepperami in one of my socks akin to a Scottish sgian dubh in order to remain polite yet also appease my cravings as I nip outside under the pretence of having a cig (which is tricky in itself nowadays as I’ve given the smokes up for five years or so). I merely mention this as I suspect that this particular album may have limited appeal within my social circle. Although beans and peas get mentioned occasionally.
The album’s title sort of gives it away, really. 24 songs from a bygone era eulogising that most social and potentially poisonous form of summer pastimes, cooking meat products in the Great Outdoors. Or, at least using the imagery of freshly-prepared meat for the purposes of alluding to something altogether more saucy. It might just be me, but it’s difficult to believe everyone here’s being 100% innocent with titles such as Who Did You Give My Barbecue To?, Pepper Sauce Mama (with it’s opening line “Pepper Sauce Mama, you make my meat red hot”) and I Crave My Pig Meat.
Given the age of the recordings and the fact that there surely couldn’t have been a vast number of recordings of this subject matter that someone could simply pick out the best two dozen, the quality throughout is remarkable and a credit to the curators at Old Hat Records for sourcing and taking such care of these songs. Credit is also due to these guys for the 20-page booklet that accompanies this CD that manages to cram so much info on both the history of the American Barbecue and of each song/artist that it’s easy to fully steep (or should that be marinade? Yeah, probably not) oneself into the unique atmosphere that this record creates, even if my attention is drawn to the potted history of The Two Charlies – which goes to some length to explain that Charlie Jordan may not necessarily be the Charlie Jordan that blues aficionados might first think, but doesn’t then go on to say whether or not the second Charlie (Manson) is the one that we all first thought it was.
Those seeking Blues authenticity will be more than happy at the list of names on offer, the various nicknames evoking all manner of the right imagery: Frankie “Half Pint” Jackson (who was somewhat diminutive), Tiny Parham (who was named rather ironically), Blind Boy Fuller (who was) and Bogus Ben Covington (who used to pretend to be blind, but wasn’t) are all part of a rich pantheon of Blues/Jazz nomenclature from south of the Mason-Dixon line that we’re all familiar with. I must confess to not being quite so au fait with Richard M. Jones’ Jazz Wizards or Vance Dixon And His Pencils, but I’ll try most anything once and the leisurely-grooved jazz of the former’s Smoked Meat Blues and the slightly more sprightly Crispin Hellion Glover-esque weird scat of the latter are both joys to listen to. Even the apparent paradox created by Tempo King And His Kings of Tempo (surely this’d mean that they’re all him? My brain hurts) fits in well with this rather wonderfully strange compilation.
So yeah, I happily admit to buying this album for no reason other than baffled intrigue. Blues From The Pit certainly intrigues and baffles in equal measure, and it also succeeds admirably in entertaining by virtues of being fun (and occasionally very funny) to listen to, by providing a snapshot of an era where musicians of the time were even then bragging about material wealth and sex, and just providing a smile at the sheer brass neck of one song being little more than an advert for the drummer’s restaurant. The music’s really good, the atmosphere is delightful, and I’m now very hungry. Result all round, then.