Collard Greens & Gravy - Collard
Greens & Gravy
Collard Greens & Gravy is a trio (before
you ask, No, Ian Collard's colleagues are not called
Greens and Gravy ;-) Ian is on vocals and harmonica (mostly
amplified, but a few acoustic tracks), James Bridges on guitar
(and slide guitar) and Anthony Shortte on drums and percussions.
The thing that strikes me most about this release
is that, unlike a great majority of records issued (in the
blues genre or otherwise), it has a genuine feel, an atmosphere
that pervades the whole record. In other words, when you play
that record, it's very difficult to listen to it analytically.
It is a very dark and haunting record, it has a kind of mean
edge to it, not unlike some of the eeriest Robert Johnson
stuff, although using different tools.
This is the result of an unusual repertoire
and unusual arrangements, as well as an obvious implication
of the sound engineers to get that very special feeling. There's
a lot of silence, a lot of notes hanging in the air rather
than being smothered by the next note, there a bit of reverb,
and there's sparse drumming and guitar playing when needed.
The closest thing I have on record in terms of atmosphere
would be Low Rock bands like Morphine or its harp-full ancestor
Treat her Right. I don't know if the term Low Blues has been
coined yet, but if not, Ian and his colleagues have maybe
brought upon a new genre...
Ian's playing is mature and well mastered, featuring
both speed and power when required and gentle somberness on
darker tracks. At times, it reminds me a little of Steve Guyger's
playing on "Past Life" although it's not as "traditional".
Ian uses overblows (especially the minor third on overblow
six) to great effect even though it is sometimes slightly
out of tune. I hard a hard time working out if that was deliberate
or not, since it has a certain unsettling effect that is in
fact quite pleasant.
In terms of repertoire, even though there are
a few covers here, most of them are of obscure pre-war recordings,
apart from St James Infirmary. Nothing you're likely to have
heard if your interests don't lie specifically in that direction.
Covers and originals alike are fully the band's own though,
and have been reinterpreted with great arrangements.
It is quite uncanny how low James' guitar sounds in the absence
of a bass. Anthony's drumming has a primitive feel to
it, as featured on the solo in "Out in the desert"
that sounds positively tribal.
Moments of greatness are aplenty in this record,
my personal favourite being the interpretation of "Get
right church", very moody, and featuring a long unaccompanied
harp solo of great facture. The aforementioned "Out in
the desert" is also a nice piece of work, as is the funeral
sounding "Sick bed blues", with Ian on high pitched
vocals and chromatic harp.
All in all, Collard Greens and Gravy is undoubtedly
one of the most startingly original and enjoyable blues releases
I have heard in quite a while. It may not be suited to all
tastes, since it has a somber edge and is not the kind of
blues that will bring a happy smile to your face. It is more
expressive and meaningful than a lot of stuff that gets released
these days though. I can only recommend blues fans out there
to check out the band's web site, listen to the mp3s there
and purchase the album if you like it. Chances are you will