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Little Axe Champagne and Grits Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

...making the blues a viable form of musical protest for the 21st century.

Chris Jones 2004

Who is Little Axe? Followers of producer Adrian Sherwood will know that Little Axe is actually Bernard Alexander. Who is Bernard Alexander? Why, he's Skip McDonald, guitarist in the original rap house band, The Sugarhill Gang, and co-conspirator on Sherwood's On-U label experiments (African Headcharge, Tackhead , Bim Sherman et al.). Confused? Well if you consider that this is a blues album made by people connected with the roots of hip hop, dub reggae and techno funk youproably should be confused. But have no fear, just one listen and everything will become clear.

McDonald and Sherwood's strategy is simple and totally within keeping of their previous work. These are people who always instinctively knew that there was common ground in all roots music, from King Tubby to Howlin' Wolf. With this in mind they blend the basic forms of the delta blues and, using Sherwood's technological savvy, put all the extras that the 21st Century has to offer under a rudimentary framework of acoustic guitar and plaintive vocals. Like supercharging a Model T...

McDonald states how his methodology included listening to early blues music until one sample or phrase sparked his muse. Thus we get little snatches of chain gang work songs ("Go Away Devil") and ancient scratchy hollers woven into the mix, while depth charges of dub bass and drums pour fire into the belly of each song. Meanwhile, collaborators such as Junior Delgado or Shara Nelson ("Say My Name") add elements of reggae or trip hop in their doomiest incarnations.

What's most impressive about Champagne and Grits is the way it finds the common link between the ancient and modern, making the blues a viable form of musical protest for the 21st century. This is real American folk music, alive and very much kicking.

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