Grady Champion, featuring Eddie Cotton Jr.

Grady Champion, featuring Eddie Cotton Jr.
Back in Mississippi, Live at the 930 Blues Café

Self-produced, Grady Shady Music, available on CD

By Karen Nugent
June 2008

It’s an anomaly to find a rapper-turned-bluesman, but that’s exactly what Grady Champion seems to be. And at the end of last year he turned out a stupendous 14-track album with several blues all-time classics, and - dare I say it - some equally good originals.

This is kind of a family affair – and it’s a BIG family. Grady is the youngest of 28 children who grew up in rural Canton, Miss., near Jackson, where the disc was recorded live at the 930 Blues Café.

Grady Champion does lead vocals (which are at times a little grating and too gravely) and harp, along with acoustic guitar on one track, “Policeman Blues,” a controversial original he wrote with Dennis Walker. Grady’s son, Marquis Champion is on bass and backup vocals, and several other family members seem to have taken part in the production. The record is dedicated to his parents, siblings, and children, including an autistic son.

A big plus is the electric guitar playing of Eddie Cotton Jr. (who calls Champion his little brother) who just sizzles throughout the entire disc.

The band is rounded out by Calvin Wilson on keyboards, Hammond B3 organ and backup vocals, and Frank White and Xavres Good on drums.

The disc has one nod to Champion’s old genre, with Jacktown Swiff doing some rap on “Policeman Blues,” a lament to racial profiling.

But the first half of the album is pure blues from all of the greats – you couldn’t ask for more: “I’m Ready,” followed by a combination of Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want to Do/Bright Lights, Big City,” “Spoonful,” B.B. King’s “Why I Sing the Blues,” and Curtis Jones’ slow, soulful “Lonesome Bedroom Blues.” You can hear the screaming from the audience on this one, especially during Cotton’s fast-fingered leads.

But I’m telling you, two of the best songs are Champion originals.

“1-800-Blu-Love” is a funky dance number with fantastic harp riffs. Ditto for “You Got Some Explaining To Do,” which was also co-written by Dennis Walker. This one is another danceable, but more bluesy, tune about – what else – a cheating woman. Again, great guitar work here by Cotton.

“Love and Memories,” written by Grady Champion, and dedicated to his mother, is a Gospel-like loving ode to her. “Wine and Women” by Champion and Cotton, is a fine shuffle.

The album is rounded out by three originals: “Brother, Brother,” a racially poignant ballad; “I’m Your’s,” a real slow ballad, and, for the holidays: “Blues on Christmas,” with some amusing lyrics. (“Santa did me wrong – he took my milk, cookies, and my woman, too.”)

Champion should be championed as one of the best young-and-upcoming blues musicians, and let’s hope he puts another disc out soon.

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