These are uneasy times for Mississippi blues. In the past few years, we’ve lost some of the state’s best and most-loved blues artists, including many who recorded for Broke & Hungry Records or who appeared in the documentaries we helped produce.
Sadly, the trend shows no sign of slowing in 2016. In the first two months of the year alone, two more great Mississippi blues artists, our dear friends L.C. Ulmer and Elmo Williams, have passed.
It’s enough to drive a blues fan to drink.
Fortunately, all is not lost.
A number of veteran performers continue to make vital, exciting music for blues lovers who are hungry for the real thing. Robert Lee “Lil’ Poochie” Watson and Hezekiah Early are chief among them.
For years, the duo has been thrilling listeners at sweaty clubs in their hometown of Natchez, Mississippi, and at festivals in the Delta and nearby Louisiana. Their music draws from a huge range of influences including prewar Delta blues, New Orleans R&B, primal early rock & roll, electric juke blues and southern soul. It all comes together to forge a raw, down-home sound that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else.
I first worked with Poochie and Hez back in 2011 when we filmed their performance at Red’s Lounge in Clarksdale for our documentary “We Juke Up in Here” (jointly produced with Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art). From the moment they started playing, I was enthralled. Poochie’s voice was a force of nature, full of more grit and gravel than a Mississippi back road. His guitar playing was tight but tough. Meanwhile Hezekiah thundered away on his drum kit while blowing furiously into a harmonica he had strapped to his microphone with thick strips of electrical tape. They charged through their set with total confidence, tackling material by everyone from Howlin’ Wolf to Z.Z. Hill with utter ease. They swaggered off the stage that night like conquering heroes.
I knew I had to get them into the studio for a proper album right away.
And then, somehow, five years passed.
Over that period, I ran into Poochie and Hez numerous times, and my enthusiasm for recording them never waned. Each time I saw them perform I was reminded again of their incredible musical kinship.
In February 2016, the stars finally aligned, and I was able to bring them into the studio for a brief-but-productive session. All of the tracks on this release stem from that three-hour studio encounter – from snarling electric duo performances to stark solo acoustic numbers (including two from Hezekiah on an amazing homemade guitar).
This project took a little longer to happen than I had planned, but I hope you’ll agree it was worth the wait.
– Jeff Konkel/Broke & Hungry Records
released April 1, 2016
Robert Lee “Lil’ Poochie” Watson – guitar and vocals (1–4, 6–11)