Little Freddie King – Fried Rice & Chicken

Little Freddy King
Title: Fried Rice & Chicken

Artist: Little Freddie King

Label: Orleans

Formats: CD, LP, Digital

Release date: April 6, 2018



Delta blues guitarist Little Freddie King has been a fixture on the New Orleans scene for decades, performing regularly at the NOLA Jazz and Heritage Festival as well as clubs in “the lowest bowels of the mighty Ninth Ward.” Though not as well-known as the other guitar slinging Freddie King from Texas, “Little Freddie” is still the real deal—a Mississippi-born bluesman who learned to play guitar on his daddy’s knee, claims Lightnin’ Hopkins as a cousin, and once toured Europe with Bo Diddley and John Lee Hooker.

In 1971, Harmonica Williams and Little Freddie King released Rock N Roll Blues on the obscure Ahura Mazda label. As one might guess, this limited pressing didn’t provide King with much exposure beyond his adopted hometown, and it’s difficult to find a copy these days. Over two decades later, the local Orleans Records label released two of King’s first solo projects, Swamp Boogie in 1997 and Sing Sang Sung in 2000.

Fried Rice & Chicken is a compilation featuring the best tracks from King’s two contrasting albums for Orleans. The first half, recorded in the studio from 1994-1995, features backing by Earl “Pass the Hatchet” Stanley and Robert Wilson on electric bass, Jason Sipher on upright bass, Kerry Brown and Bradley Wisham on drums, with Crazy Rick Allen on Wurlitzer electric piano and organ. While not exactly polished, the tracks are at least a half step up from King’s raw club performances. Notable tracks include the opening song “Cleos Back,” which some might recognize from the Tom Hanks movie Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and “Mean Little Woman” featured in the HBO series Treme. Yes, Little Freddie has been getting some good exposure since these songs were initially released.

The second half of the album was recorded live at the Dream Palace, a club on Frenchman Street in the Faubourg Marigny section of New Orleans. You might say this is the real Little Freddie King, offering up the raw gut bucket blues of Southern juke joints. On these tracks King is accompanied by his regular band at the time: Wacko Wade Wright on drums, Anthony Anderson on electric bass, and Bobby Lewis DiTullio on harmonica. Highlights include the title track “Sing Sang Sung,” a great instrumental showcasing King and DiTullio, and “Bad Chicken” featuring “squawking” guitar licks.

Though there are a number of different Freddie King compilations, Fried Rice & Chicken encapsulates the best of his Orleans Records output.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

Grady Champion – One of a Kind

Title: One of a Kind

Artist: Grady Champion

Label: Malaco

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: September 16, 2016



Mississippi’s Grady Champion may have started his career as a rapper, but after learning to play the harmonica he became an advocate for the blues. He now endeavors to keep the Delta traditions alive while racking up numerous awards along the way.  Though Champion experimented with the fusion of hip hop and the blues in his early years, his 10th album is more conventional, but in no way stale. On One of a Kind, he delivers 12 original tracks that play to his eclectic fan base: those who love traditional blues, and those like their blues with a dash of Southern soul.  Recorded at the historic Malaco Records’ studio in Jackson, Mississippi (now part of the Mississippi Blues Trail), the album features local backing musicians including Eddie Cotton Jr. on guitar, Carroll McLaughlin on keyboards, Sam Scott on drums, Myron Bennett and Ken Smith on bass, and the Jackson Horns (Kimble Funchess, trumpet; Jesse Primer III, tenor sax; Sydney Ford II, bari sax; and Robert Lampkin, trombone).

Opening with the slow and sexy “Bump and Grind,” Champion’s deep, raspy vocals and suggestive harmonica solos mimic the action on the dance floor. The lively “House Party” is a rollicking 12-bar blues featuring a trio of background vocalists accompanied by the lush chords of a Hammond B3 and the punchy Jackson Horns. Continuing with the party theme, “Move Something” and “Heels and Hips” are grooving dance numbers with a more contemporary vibe.

Shifting back to a slow grind, “What a Woman” is another traditional blues track featuring the legendary Elvin Bishop, who punctuates the song with his edgy slide guitar.  Representing the R&B side of the spectrum, “One of a Kind” and “When I’m Gone” are notable for their funky instrumentals and soulful backing vocals harkening back to the glory days of Malaco. The album closes with the instrumental “GC Boogie,” a showcase for Champion and Eddie Cotton who trade harmonica and guitar solos, converging at the end for a satisfying finale.

Champion’s One of a Kind is a great follow-up to his 2014 release, Bootleg Whiskey, offering plenty of diversity while showcasing the best of the contemporary Southern blues scene.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss


Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music, by Ted Gioia. (W. W. Norton, October 20, 2008)

A comprehensive new history of the Delta blues by noted jazz author Ted Gioia, which journeys from Mississippi to Chicago while tracing the careers of many famous blues recording artists, including Charley Patton, Son House, Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and B.B. King. This book will make a fine addition to any blues collection, and is recommended for public as well as academic libraries.

Blues Empress in Black Chattanooga: Bessie Smith and the Emerging Urban South, by Michelle R. Scott. (University of Illinois Press, August 2008).

The latest biography of Bessie Smith (1892-1937), the famous blues singer and entertainer who was originally known as the “queen of the blues” and gradually worked her way up to “empress.”  While this might not be the definitive biography (there are several others in print, most notably Chris Albertson’s Bessie),  it does include interesting discussions of the black entertainment industry, as well as the African American community within Chattanooga.

Swing Along: The Musical Life of Will Marion Cook, by Marva Carter. (Oxford University Press, September 2008)

Will Marion Cook was one of the most important African American composers in the early 20th century, and a comprehensive biography is long overdue. Carter draws upon  Cook’s unfinished autobiography as well as his wife Abbie’s memoir, and includes analyses of his most important works, including the musicals In Dahomey and Swing Along.  This is a must read for anyone interested in Black music and musical theater between 1890-1920.

Icons of R&B and Soul: An Encyclopedia of the Artists who Revolutionized Rhythm, by Bob Gulla (Greenwood Press, 2008).

A wonderful two volume survey of artists including Ray Charles, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Ruth Brown, Sam Cooke, Etta James, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, Temptations, Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Ike & Tina Turner, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and Prince. Intended for public and school libraries, the volumes include selective bibliographies and discographies, as well as a multitude of side bars addressing everything from social issues to record labels, timelines, and chart topping hits.

The Funk Era and Beyond: New Perspectives on Black Popular Culture, by Tony Bolden. (Palgrave MacMillan, August, 2008)

In the words of our Director, Dr. Portia Maultsby, “This engaging book takes the reader on a journey across the multi-layered and multidisciplinary terrain of funk. This series of essays on music and the visual and literary arts reveal how ‘da funk’ represents innovation and aesthetic principles rooted in the Black vernacular, which defines the uniqueness of Black creativity. The Funk Era and Beyond is a must-read to understand funk as a philosophy, an attitude, a way of life, and more broadly, a cultural phenomena.”

A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AAMC and Experimental Music, by George E. Lewis. (University Of Chicago Press, May 2008).

This nearly 700 page tome documents the history of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and the avant-garde jazz scene in Chicago. A major contribution to jazz research, the book is scholarly yet highly readable and entertaining. The author also does a more than admirable job of entertwining the music scene with the racial and cultural aspects of the Chicago landscape.