SBE play classic stoner rock, with a strong sixties/seventies psychedelic vibe, that is a positive joy to hear looping out of your speakers and filling the room. Somehow SBE seem to make a well worn genre seem fresh and powerful. There is nothing particularly new here, but who cares? It sounds fucking great. If these two tracks are anything to go by then SBE cook like a manic depressive master chef on crystal meth.
After the release of Jake Blues from prison, he and brother Elwood go to visit "The Penguin", the last of the nuns who raised them in a boarding school. They learn the Archdiocese will stop supporting the school and will sell the place to the Education Authority. The only way to keep the place open is if the $5000 tax on the property is paid within 11 days. The Blues Brothers want to help, and decide to put their blues band back together and raise the the money by staging a big gig. As they set off on their "mission from God" they seem to make more enemies along the way. Will they manage to come up with the money in time?
Blues With a Message isn't just about lost love and the toils of specific lives, the blues (particularly within the folk-blues traditions) spent some time dealing with sociopolitical issues on the side, primarily before the rise of electric blues. Here, Arhoolie has compiled a set of pieces related to a surprisingly large number of issues. Among them: Minstrel shows, the mechanization of cotton farming, and its related exodus to the North, sharecropping, segregation, the Korean War, the influenza epidemic, the New Deal, civil rights movements, Chicago employment opportunities – all are given a song or two here. The music quality is roughly equivalent to many of the folk-blues recordings available, though the "big name" artists are largely absent from this one (Lightnin Hopkins does make an appearance singing about sharecropping, however). The songs are deliberately focused on the issues more than the music, but the music can still carry its soul. This one probably won't be on many highest-sales lists in the blues, but it's both historically important and musically enjoyable.
This is a good collection of piano-accompanied vocals sporting bluesmen who worked the lumber camps and oil fields of rural Texas, as well as the red-light districts of cities like Galveston and Houston. Big Boy Knox shows a strong city influence in his decorative right-hand work, as does Robert Cooper, whose playing points to the influence of Fats Waller. Joe Pullem is on board with his hit, "Black Gal," which is perhaps overstated by three takes and a variation. The vocals are good, however, and the piano playing is uniformly excellent. Stylistically, this music falls somewhere between ragtime, blues, and vaudeville.