What is it with Samuel L. Jackson and �snake� movies lately? First it was Snakes on a Plane, and later this month he stars alongside Christina Ricci in Black Snake Moan, where he plays down-and out blues man Lazarus. Movies aside, as far as soundtracks go Black Snake Moan has just got it.
The Black Snake Moan soundtrack is produced by near-legendary Memphis native Scott Bomar (who has worked with everyone from Al Green to countless Stax musicians,) and whose work on this soundtrack has moments comparative to the T-Bone Burnett-produced soundtrack to the Cohen Brothers� O� Brother Where Art Thou? Black Snake Moan, directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle and Flow), has Ricci and Jackson livin� out the blues in Tennessee, and is appropriately named after Blind Lemon Jefferson�s song of the same name. (Incidentally, Jefferson wrote Black Snake Moan while going blind, and Samuel L. tears it up with Memphis folk/blues artist Jason Freeman on guitar.)
Things start off with the sound of cicadas, an all-too-familiar sound in the south. And if the hotter-than-hot Tennessee sun had a sound, it would be Scott Bomar�s intro that features North Mississippi Allstar Luther Dickinson�s scorching guitar; if the south itself had a sound, it would be the end title from the North Mississippi Allstars, �Mean Ol� Wind Died Down,� an Allman-esque, epic track.
Samuel L.�s gravely voice graces, �Just Like a Bird Without a Feather� and �Alice Mae,� songs originally written and performed by R.L. Burnside, with Burnside�s adopted son Kenny Brown featured on guitar. Brown teams up with Jackson again on the traditional �Stackolee,� a rockin�, true-to-the-blues, my-woman-done-left-me, shot-the-bartender blues song: �This here song�s from back in the day / 19 hundred & 62 / My woman put my black ass out in the cold / I said �Baby why you leavin?� / She said �our love done run cold, but��
Bobby Rush funks out �Chicken Heads� and a true standout track is R.L. Burnside on �Old Black Mattie,� a song about Mattie getting� drunk and takin� off her clothes outside; this is a true juke joint song. (This song is off his album Too Bad Jim, an album said to have rocketed R.L. into a wider-stream listener base, which also led to collaborations with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.)
The ladies show off their skills too, and rightfully so. Granddaughter of drummer Sid Hemphill, Jessie Mae Hemphill�s smooth voice hits the traditional �Standin� in My Doorway Cryin�� dead on, while Precious Bryant, considered by some to be one of the last players of the true Georgia blues tradition, shows her stuff on �Morning Train,� a song recorded in her living room and taken from her 2005 release The Truth.
Akon, Ohio�s own alt-country rockers The Black Keys tear it up on Mississippi native Junior Kimbrough�s track, �When the Lights Go Out.� Founding member John Doe of LA punk band X puts his spin on �The Losing Kind,� and Detroit psychedelic rockers Outrageous Cherry claim the opening film title, �Lord Have Mercy On Me.�
As a stand-alone album, these 17 tracks are sure to give anybody, blues fan or not, a major taste of what blues music embodies: human struggle. Rootsy and spiritual, down-and-out but hopeful, each track is drunk and steeped on old-time blues, and can be best summed up by the �Father of the Delta Blues,� Son House. He says this on the blues: �Sometimes that kind of blues will make you even kill one another � or do anything, that kind of love � that�s where the blues started.�
Sarah LinnFebruary 16th, 2007