Agony Shorthand

Friday, October 21, 2005

Jazz and blues spring off of the same root, but whereas a major branch of jazz music went "free" some 45-odd years ago and never looked back, I don't think I've ever heard music that could quantifiably be categorized as "free blues". Until now. LITTLE HOWLIN' WOLF is James Pobiega, a white Polish male from Chicago who is said to have released 32 seven-inch singles and a couple LPs over a span from the late-70s to mid-80s. This is the second of a planned 3 volumes of CD-Rs put out by the fellas in extreme non-music act NAUTICAL ALMANAC, who apparently took a shine to this stuff and took on a personal crusade to popularize it. It's some wacked, outsider stuff. Imagine a real soulful and deep blues that plays in the background of instruments & patterns have never before associated with the blues, uh, "idiom", like weird percussive time signatures, jew's harp, free jazz honking & squirting, and disembodied vocals. Like remember watching "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" for the first time and getting all bent out of shape with the way Altman miked the background conversations above those of the lead characters? That's sort of the effect here -- Pobiega is often leading the show way off in the back, while a host of other players are doing some bizarro, out-of-time jamming right in front of him. First comparison I thought of was ABNER JAY, but Abner Jay is far closer to Robert Cray and "Keb'Mo" in spirit than he is to Pobiega. I can't admit to having the stomach for this raw free blues anytime, anywhere, but it's definitely something to get on the radar for a deeper exploration of stoned, blank-palette sound.