The founding fathers of Mississippi Delta music often had to rely on word of mouth for publicity for gigs at the local gutbucket juke joint. When literacy isnít the norm amongst fans and patrons, publicity flyers are useless.
Thankfully literacy is now the norm, and with a little creative license by Dick Armey; Al Gore created the Internet, which has become an incredibly powerful tool for both the musician and the fan.
In this age of social networking, the artist is now able to communicate to a mass audience at the touch of a button, and a music fan has the opportunity to check out a new act without actually committing to a night out at the local bar.
On the off chance the music fan encounters a local act worthy of checking out additional shows, the Internet provides a great way to track the next time the local act is coming into the area. And as Jim of The Ten Foot PoleCats will attest to - a way to repeatedly inquire as to when the first release will be available.
Sterno Soup, the Promotional EP/CD by The Ten Foot PoleCats, arrived in the mail in late January. It was immediately downloaded to my iPod, and loaded into slot 3 of my carís CD player.
It was still in both audio tools for a long time.
Recorded at Nobscot Studios for less than $200, this minimalist approach to recording is the only way this band should ever record.
This is just three guys playing a style of music they truly love. The Ten Foot PoleCats is not a band playing Delta blues music; they are a contemporary Delta blues band playing a refreshing gutbucket boogie.
From Jim Chilsonís first finger-picked riff on his 5-string electric hollow body diddley bow, and Dave Darling laying down the rest of the rhythm section on the drums for Blind Willie Johnsonís “Nobodyís Fault But Mine,” The PoleCats capture a sound and vibe Led Zeppelin could never have ripped off.
Sure, vocalist Jay Scheffer doesnít have Robert Plantís range, but Scheffer does possess an authentic Delta blues voice that isnít crafted today with studio gimmickry. The PoleCats consist of three-fifths of the Hoodoo Revelators, and from the opening track it is clear their history together allows them to make an awful lot of music out of three tracks.
“Going Crazy” is an up-tempo boogie tune which will inspire foot tapping and finger drumming right from the start. Chilsonís guitar work sets the scene; Darlingís drum work continues the boogie, and Schefferís warm and weathered vocals keep it all together.
“Thought I heard” is a slow steaming track, an appropriate soundtrack for a sweltering country bar where Budweiser is considered a high-end beer, and grain alcohol is on the menu. In keeping with the theme and approach, Scheffer adds a brief run on the Mississippi saxophone which adds just enough to the song to be noticed but to not detract from the song itself.
In a remake of Robert Johnsonís “Dead Shrimp,” once again Chilson sets the groove on his diddley-bow. Darling continues the groove with his minimalist drum play, and Scheffer adds additional color with the vocals. Proving it is not what you play, but how you play it, in “Dead Shrimp,” Chilsonís guitar drops out of the mix for several bars. Darling keeps hammering the groove on the drum set, and Scheffer raps lyrics over the drum groove. It is a brilliant section on a fantastic cover song which sums up why The Ten Foot PoleCats are just so good. Nothing is forced, and only the necessary core elements to the song are included. Layering of tracks provides additional color, but it also hides a lot of mistakes.
On “Work Me,” the final track, the Junior Kimbrough influence smacks the listener right in the face. It is another slow burning track which could have been included on the Black Snake Moan soundtrack.
The Ten Foot PoleCats are currently in the process of gigging with their other band, The Hoodoo Revelators, and taking smaller gigs as The Ten Foot PoleCats, plus recording a full length CD. Hopefully they will resist the temptation to stretch the budget and divert from their minimalist approach.
From the hand made graphics, to the live recording of four tracks at most, this CD is perfect. In a style of music which the artists often shortened their own life spans by giving into excess, excessive recording and tinkering is the only thing which could take away from this masterpiece.