Big Joe Shelton review…July 15, 2018….

BIG JOE SHELTON

AND THE BLACK PRAIRIE BLUES AMBASSADORS

RIDIN’ A CHICKEN

ALT 45 RECORDS

PUT THE CHAIRS IN THE WAGON–RIDIN’ A CHICKEN–GOT SO HOT–DONE GOT TIRED–JUST LET ME BLEED–INHALE BLESSINGS–NO MAN’S LAND–POOL HALL RED–LORRAINE–TOO WET TO PLOW–TIME TO GO HOME–MY FUTURE LIES BEHIND ME NOW

Big Joe Shelton was born in the Black Prairie Region of northeast Mississippi.  This is the same fertile ground that also served as home to Big Joe Williams, Bukka White, and Chester Arthur Burnett, ol’ Howlin’ Wolf himself.  As a result, Big Joe was always exposed to the blues, and he forged a friendship with Joe Williams that shaped his musical career.  His latest release, for ALT 45 Records,  is entitled “Ridin’ A Chicken.”  It was laid down in January of 2017, with twelve originals that also feature one of the coolest names for a backing band you’ll ever hear, The Black Prairie Blues Ambassadors.  They are:  Ben Ferrell on guitar, Ed Swan on bass, Bob Damm on percussion, Bobby Shannon on keys, Doug Thomas on sax, and Susan Alcorn Lobato on the pedal steel.

The fun starts as our hero finds that, after two years busking in Memphis, “the money I make don’t go very far,” and “nobody knows my name,” so it’s time to “Put The Chairs In The Wagon, it’s time to go home!”  This one has some biting guitar licks from Ben that further fuel our hero’s angst.  Amazingly, near the end of the set, Joe and the fellows turn this same tune inside-out, and into a cool shot of “reggae, mon,” to tell that same story, this time with a much lighter groove, but it’s still “Time To Go Home!”  This version was one of our favorites.   Ben gives the wah-wah pedal a workout on the title cut, the story of a woman so skinny, “is that her legs, or is she Ridin’ A Chicken?”  Joe’s on the harp of the likely-true story  of a character from his youth who taught him his appreciation for the blues, the soulful, slow-groove of “Pool Hall Red.”

Our other favorite closed the set.  Fans, you gotta give this one a close listen, for if it doesn’t apply to you now, Lord willin’ it will down the road.  It is both poignant and on-point, for, when our race is nearly run, “My Future Lies Behind Me Now.”  It is accentuated by sweet pedal steel from Susan Alcorn Lobato.

Folks, Big Joe Shelton has trod some mighty sacred ground in the blues world, given where he was raised.  He effectively carries on the traditions of the Mississippi legends, and he and the Black Prairie Blues Ambassadors, with “Ridin’ A Chicken,” offer up something for everyone!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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