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Little Freddie King – Blues Medicine
Made Wright Records

by Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © June 2023

These words may have been being spoken long before this, but my earliest recollection of the term was back in 1972 when I first heard David Bromberg sing “You’ve got to suffer if you want to sing the blues” on a song so titled. As a matter of fact, if they were used before then, it wouldn’t surprise if it was Little Freddie King who used them. After all, having been shot and stabbed several times; been involved in a near fatal bike crash that pressed his spine; survived a stomach ulcer that the doctors predicted would kill him; accidentally electrocuting himself; lived through Hurricane Katrina and of course, the pandemic; Freddie’s actually been living those words most of his eighty-three years.

All that said, Little Freddie King – one of the last bluesmen of his generation – appears to know that the only way to overcome all that adversity is with a heaping does of Blues Medicine, his appropriately titled ninth release. For the project, Little Freddie King – on vocals, electric and bass guitar – is joined by the disc’s producer and long time band mate “Wacko” Wade Wright on drums and tambourine; Robert Louis Di Tullio, Jr. on harmonica; and Robert J. Snow, Sr. on electric bass. Additionally, special guests include: Vasti Jackson on slide guitar; Ricky Stelma on organ & piano; and Dominick Grillo on tenor sax. Of the disc’s ten tracks, eight are Little Freddie and “Wacko” Wade originals/collaborations.

With blues having spread such a large umbrella over the last few decades, when I hear songs like this I can’t help but wonder how many of the genres newer fans – the ones who were introduced to it by contemporary and rock blues – have never heard anything like this? The song is called “Crazy Woman” and it just doesn’t get more real deal and old school than this. It features Wade (drums), Robert Loius (harmonica), Robert J. (bass), and Ricky (piano) all making their instruments sound bluesy as hell, while Freddie growls out lyrics about a mistreating woman. Isn’t that how this whole blues thing started?

“Fatherless” is a duet that features a couple of McComb, Mississippi homeboys – Little Freddie on lead guitar and vocals and Vasti Jackson on slide guitar – putting on an absolutely flawless performance. Although this isn’t how it happened, it sure sounds like it was recorded on a front porch back home in McComb. Lyrically, Freddie tells a truthful and heartfelt tale of the wrong path he went down after his father left. As hard as his mother tried to keep him in line, that road got much bumpier when she passed. My guess would be that may have been the era of the shootings and stabbings. Thankfully, that was long ago and here we are now, listening to a master bluesman.

“We Are Through” is as simple as it gets – guitar, drums and bass – and yet there is nothing simple sounding about it. Wade and Robert J. are locked into a deep rhythm groove and Freddie’s guitar tone is right there with them. Vocally, Freddie’s again using that patented gritty, baritone voice to sing about – yep, you guessed it – another mistreating woman.

Topically and musically, “Two Timer” has a lot in common with the disc’s opening track – “Crazy Woman”. The ensemble is identical and it’s another down home, foot tappin’ track with killer high end Jimmy Reed type harp blowin’ from Robert Louis, and similar high end, right hand piano leads from Ricky. Of course, having me think I need to go back to the opening paragraph and add ‘heart breaks’ to that long list of Freddie’s hardships, he’s having more woman problems.

“Coke No Ice” is a laid back instrumental with a cool blend of soft jazz and slow blues. It’s so laid back that I got the impression the song didn’t need any producing at all. It sounded like five musicians sitting around a studio just improvising and when it was all over, because of how perfect it came out, I saw them smiling at each other from here. Instrumentally – with Freddie laying down his best guitar work; Dominick (on his only appearance) and Ricky working magic together on the sax and piano respectively; and Wade and Robert J. in their usual tight rhythm pocket – this is easily the disc’s best track.

With a similar vocal and singing style, Freddie’s all over this rendition of Jimmy Reed’s “Caress Me Baby”. Of course, if you’e gonna do a Jimmy Reed cover, it better feature some killer harmonica playing and for that, Robert Louis was indeed up to the task. Although it’s Jimmy’s lyrics Freddie’s singing, it’s a refreshing change to hear him singing about a woman he wants to love instead of loathe.

The disc closes with a hot instrumental titled “Two Wheel Cadillac” and it’s indeed the most uptempo track of the lot. It’s got a “What’d I Say” vibe, and similar to the way that song was led by fabulous piano playing from Ray Charles, this one’s led by fabulous organ playing by Rick Stelma.

Other tracks on this wonderfully traditional blues release include: “Dust the Bible” (W. & J. Bailes); “Canal St. Corner Bar”; and “Don’t Worry About Me”.

If you would like to find out more about Little Freddie King just go to – www.littlefreddieking.com. Remember, wherever you go and to whomever you speak, please tell them their friend the Blewzzman sent you.

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