Memphis Gold

Memphis Gold
Pickin’ in High Cotton

Stackhouse Recording

By Lady K
May 2013

Memphis Gold (also known to his family as Chester Chandler) has roots in (surprise) Memphis, but he and his absolutely killer acoustic guitar are currently out of Washington, D.C. This CD includes Memphis Gold (vocals, acoustic guitar, bass) with multiple musicians contributing on varied tracks: Robert Lighthouse (slide guitar, harmonica); Jay Summerour (harmonica); Pete Ragusa, Robert “Mousey” Thompson, Eric “High Cotton” Selby, and Dan Leake (drums); Danny Blue and Linwood Taylor (guitar); Rowe Oliver and Paulo Trinadade (bass); and Mariah Moore (vocals).

Memphis Gold celebrates his African American roots on this album, with his own blend of all-original thought-provoking, terrific blues. The first track, “How You Gonna Play the Blues?” is one of Lady K’s favorites. It’s a slow-tempo tune; a smorgasbord of blues guitar and harmonica. “If you ain’t never had to pick no cotton, you don’t know what the blues is all about / when you ain’t got no money, you got the blues.”

The slow “Don’t Take My Blues Away” just asks that during hard times, he be left with his blues music: “Hey, don’t take my blues away / you done took everything else from me, but my blues I can’t bear to lose.” The rocking up-tempo “Pickin’ in High Cotton” includes some absolutely fantastic slide guitar, with a hint of a “Muddy influence”; harkening back to the days of plantation life, and how many young people, slaving (literally) on plantations, faced this quandary: “Be damned tired of pickin’ cotton, down here on my knees / Been pickin’ cotton, but if it weren’t for my folks, I’d be leavin’ this place.”

“Back Po’ch Tennessee” is an instrumental goldmine featuring Memphis Gold and High Cotton – guitar and drum – it’s pretty awesome, and is Lady K’s favorite track. “Biscuit Boogie” is an up-tempo boogie, making sure friends and family have appropriate instructions for when he passes: “When I die, bury me deep; a pan of biscuits at my feet.”

“Homeless Blues” is a sad, slow blues tune about what life can be like for those living on the street, and trying to make ends meet by busking. “I was sleepin’ on the street, no place to go, didn’t have no place to call my home / sometimes beggin’ on the street with a tin can in my hand.” And, reminding listeners “if were it not for the grace of God, you’d be homeless too.”

The rocking “John Brown” features some terrific Jay Summerour harp, and reminds listeners of the historic John Brown raid at Harper’s Ferry; about hearing all the church bells ringing that night, and knowing there’d be trouble coming.

Not all the tracks on “Pickin’ in High Cotton” will take you back to the African American roots in America; there is a rocking blues duet track, called “Ice Cream Man.” Lady K is pretty sure is Memphis Gold singing the duet with himself, which is very cool. It’s a catchy, suggestive tune, which seems to be offering a bit more than an ice cream cone: “I’m your ice cream man, coming through your neighborhood. I’ve got a lot of flavors here to cool you down”; asking the hot mama, in a suggestive tone, “what’s your favorite flavor?”

And, as I said at the top of the review, the CD is loaded with tunes about plantation life, or life on the streets, and Lady K found herself expecting more of the same with the tune entitled “Plow My Mule.” It’s a rocking electric blues number, featuring Linwood Taylor, and I was just getting into the music and the lyrics when I realized that Memphis Gold evidently has a terrific (and subtle) sense of humor, in addition to his musical talents. It seems that in the vernacular “plow my mule” doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with working the soil out in the back 40. “I’m gonna plow my mule till my mule can’t plow no more” is the same “mule” that his woman smiles at when she sees it, and the same “mule” that she loves. So, evidently a mule isn’t always really a mule (at least Lady K finally “got it”; she’s not totally naďve!!)

Memphis Gold’s Pickin’ in High Cotton is a keeper!!

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