Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Aaron Williams And The Hoodoo - 10:49


Many years ago I loaded my VW to the roof with gear and headed out to explore the National Parks of the Western United States.  I visited Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands.  Throughout the arid landscape stood rock columns, each more phantasmagorical than the last.  Blunted spires, layered and weathered sandstone, red chimneys, unexplainable balanced rocks on top of tiny eroded pedestals, all changed color with the thickness of the cloud cover and the angle of the sun. Each one was unique but very much the same.  In Utah they call the formations “hoodoos.”

I don’t know how Utahans came to call them “hoodoos.”  Maybe the first western explorers, as they often did,  bastardized the word used by some Native American tribe to describe the grotesquely shaped rock.  It could also have been bigotry.  The Mormons were not exactly friends with African-Americans.  Utah was a slave owning State right up until Congress outlawed slavery in 1862.  Many of the slaves practiced “hoodoo” - a superstitious and magical form of African-based folk medicine punctuated by the smokey conjuring of shapes and accompanying charms and curses.  The Mormons may have seen the  fantastic nature of the weathered rock pinnacles and just associated them with the, to them, bizarre African-American folk-medicine practices.  We will never know.  Ebenezer Bryce settled in the valley below what was to become known as Bryce Canyon in 1870. He was a shipbuilder who journeyed west with Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers to assist in the construction of buildings essential to the Mormon’s community life in the new land. All he is known to have said about the Canyon’s abundant hoodoos was, "It's a hell of a place to lose a cow."

No doubt none of this entered into the minds of vocalists Aaron Williams (guitar), Eric Shackelford (drums) and “Z” (Zac Auner, bass) when they decided to form a band and call it Aaron Williams and The Hoodoo.  Recently. they released a monster of a ten track album filled with original blues, roots and rock material called 10:49.  Willams and the Hoodoo do this voodoo oh so well.

First up is “Boom, Boom,” a Williams’ written, sung  and played delta slide blues that oozes great mojo and rivals music by Johnny WintersJohn Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters.  The boogie rock “Sick and Tired” follows with the feel of a modern Chuck Berry song, the poto mitan of modern rock.  “My Turn,” Williams co-wrote with Joe Anderson.  It has a killer Hammond organ part by Jimmy Voegeli who acts as the houngonikon and gives the whole song a Buddy Guy vibe.   “Red Head Women” is a country rock boogie in the style of Lynyrd Skynyrd pushed forward by Shackleford as if his bass were a baka. “10:49,” for which the album is named,  is a acoustic slide guitar and harmonica blues duet written by Williams and performed by two djab, Williams and harmonica master Ken Olufs.  The heavy blues slide and voodoo batterie on “Devil’s Playground” plunges to the depths of the band’s crunch and tone in a Williams’ written mange loa. The possessed Hoodoo led by Z monte la tete with a rockin’ motor blues that rivals “Cisco Kid” in Z’s song “It Is What It Is.” Williams then pounds you with his “Let Me Love You”, a song that summons the kaifu at the crossroads of delta blues, boogie, barrel house piano and rock.   Z acts as a la place with his bump disco rhythm and blues in “Tease Me, Please Me.” Shackleford’s writing contribution ,“She’s Good At What She Does,” sung by Williams, is a heavy bass blues rock number that completes the album.  Williams acts as the bokor on this one, performing rituals that most practitioners of the Hoodoo’s genre of voodoo will not or cannot do.

10:49 is a release that is definitely worth a listen. Williams has a stellar voice and plays a mean guitar.  The boys all write well and play well.  It is hard to believe that it is only a trio at heart.  So, be careful. The voodoo of the Hoodoo may put a spell on you.

- Old School

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