Baptist Town

By Lady K.
July 2016

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The Mike Eldred Trio is Mike Eldred (guitars, vocals); John Bazz (bass), and Jerry Angel (drums). Special guests on Baptist Town include John “Big Nick” Samora, Jarvis Jernigan, Tracy Jernigan, David Hidalgo, John Mayer, Robert Cray, Lauren Brown, James Pennebaker, Papa John DeFrancesco, and the Emmanuel Church Inspirational Choir.

Baptist Town is a pretty ambitious and heartfelt production, with a whole lot of big music from mostly a trio, with the help of the guests listed above. Lady K is going to quote some of the promotional material that was provided with the album, since it gives a really good description of what the band has accomplished here:

“Recorded at the iconic Sun Studio in Memphis, Baptist Town paints a musical picture steeped in the rich history of the South and the folklore that is so important to American culture.”

“The catalyst for the album is the small neighborhood outside Greenwood, Mississippi, where legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson was murdered in 1938. The track “Somebody Been Runnin” references the final chapter of Johnson’s ‘deal with the devil’ made at the crossroads, and some say fulfilled in the tiny community of Baptist Town the night he died. Baptist Town also focuses on the poverty and racism of the past, which still exists in some part, in the deep South today. Baptist Town remains mostly as it did in Johnson’s time and is a stark contrast to the surrounding city of Greenwood. The dichotomy between love and hate, rich and poor, sin and salvation, black and white, is apparent throughout the record, and reflects many of society’s struggles that continue to haunt us all.”

All tracks on Baptist Town are original, except a very un-Beatles, ‘heavy’ version of “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

The track titled “Papa Legba” (a sexy mid-tempo tune) is, fittingly, about voodoo and spells, and other-worldliness, and includes references to arson, gambling, rooster fighting, and hoping that Papa Legba will help him get away from that life. “Somebody Been Runnin’”, has a kind of gospel feel to it and references Robert Johnson’s deal with the devil – it’s a capella, with only hand-clapping as accompaniment to the vocals.

“Run Devil Run” is a terrific old-timey- blues track – he feels he needs the devil to survive, but wants to change that: “I’m gonna send the devil running, far away from my home / Won’t be sad when he leave me, but be so alone.”

The heartbreakingly sad, and lonely “Roadside Shrine” (with John Mayer’s lap steel and guitar) is about a shrine left by Johnson’s wife. It’s an ode to her remembrance of her man, the years since he left her and us, and the forlorn shrine that stands at the site of his death: ‘Cross she made is weathered now/Nails leave rust on the wood.” Sigh . . .

The title track, “Baptist Town”, showcases Robert Cray’s guitar, and Eldred’s first-hand observations, after multiple visits to Baptist Town, that poverty and racism exist, still, nearly 80 years after Johnson’s murder: “Nobody cares about Baptist Town / They ain’t no body willing to fight.”

There are a few tracks that aren’t necessarily about Baptist Town or Robert Johnson: The up-tempo “Sugar Shake,” with its wailing guitar: “My baby like to shake / sugar shakin’ mama / my baby want to shake it man / she want everyone to know”’

And be very, very careful when you listen to “Kill My Woman” - you should not listen to it alone. His lyrics are very descriptive about just what he’s gonna do to kill his woman . . . with love. It’s really quite orgasmic, to put it mildly and in the most Lady-like way possible (and Lady K loved it).

Lady K’s favorite track is “You’re Always There.” It’s a rockin’ gospel tune, with Papa John DeFrancesco on organ and the Emmanuel Church Inspirational Choir vocalizing. It brought Lady K back to the years she lived in the Washington, D .C. area, and various friends invited her to attend Sunday services at their churches. There would be huge choirs - when everyone in the church would be on their feet, singing, dancing and clapping, enraptured with the music. It’s a seriously great track.

The only caveat that Lady has to her enjoyment of Baptist Town is that the volume is very uneven. You really can’t leave your CD player unattended because the volume changes from track to track, and you’ll need to be able to quickly adjust the decibel level to avoid pissing off the neighbors, or the people in the car next to you.


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