Old Gray Mule

Old Gray Mule
No Sleep ‘til Memphis - Aussie Edition


By Georgetown Fats
February 2014

CR Humphrey, the chief instigator of Old Gray Mule, bills his brand of blues as “Cotton Patch Disco.” For the uninitiated, “Cotton Patch Disco” can be best thought of as that middle ground on the musical family tree between Bootsy Collins and Kenny Brown. The music is raw, it is funky, and I find it to be genuinely impossible to play at low volumes.

I have run a few previous reviews on Old Gray Mule with the Boston Blues Society because each release seems to evolve from the previous one. You’ll get a disk of nothing but instrumentals from OGM, then a juke-joint two piece (guitar, drums, vocals) with vocals, and now finally a release with bass guitar tracks as well as additional instrumentation.

No Sleep ‘til Memphis opens with the “Funkyard Dog/Stay with Me” medley. On the “Stay with Me” portion of the medley, vocalist Meredith Kimbrough joins the fray, creating a pure pop sensibilities and phrasing that layers an interesting dynamic over Humphrey’s overdriven tube amp and drummer JJ Wilburn’s sleazy drum groove.

“Molly Dell” is a reworking of RL Burnside’s “Alice Mae,” and serves as an ode to Humphrey’s better half Molly. A funny and fitting tribute which serves as a reminder that behind every successful married professional married is a spouse/business partner who can regularly laugh and look the other way over some non-PC behavior.

My personal favorite on No Sleep ‘til Memphis would have to be “Howlin’” featuring Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes as a guest vocalist and guitarist. Humphrey and Old Gray Mule set the metronome back to a slow hip-grinding pace, creating a big fat wide groove for Holmes to apply his Skip James/haunting/ minor tuned/Bentonia-style vocals and guitar playing.

In a word, No Sleep ‘til Memphis is “baaaaaad.” Not bad in the negative sense, but in the only sense where an alternate spelling with four extra a’s does not look ridiculous or out of place. If you like your blues with a side helping of funk, pick up No Sleep ‘til Memphis or any other Old Gray Mule recording.

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