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Aug to Sep 2018 CD Reviews [LA Jazz Scene]

Little Freddie King

Fried Rice & Chicken

(Orleans Records)

Little Freddie King (no relation to his fellow blues performer Freddie King who passed away in 1976) is one of the last of the authentic blues guitarists and singers. Born in 1940 as Frederick Martin and raised in Mississippi, he fell in love with New Orleans at an early age and has been based there throughout much of his life. King spent many years as a sideman playing in small clubs and juke joints with a variety of performers including Slim Harpo, Champion Jack Dupree and Harmonica Williams, making his recording debut with the latter in 1969. However he did not get a chance to record as a leader until 1995’s Swamp Boogie. At the age of 55 King, who had been working a day job as an auto mechanic, suddenly had his career rejuvenated. The release of Swamp Boogie made King well known and resulted in him touring Europe and recording 2000’s Sing Sang Sung. He has been performing with higher visibility ever since. Fried Rice & Chicken has selections drawn from those two King releases.

The first six numbers, a mixture of hot instrumentals and low-down blues, feature King with a quartet that includes Rick Allen on electric piano and organ. While his version of “What’d I Say” will not make one forget Ray Charles’ classic recording, King plays the song his own way. Other highlights include “Cleo’s Back,” “Mean Little Woman” and “I Use To Be Down.” The remaining five selections, drawn from Sing Sang Sung, were recorded live in 1999 with a group that includes Bobby Lewis DiTullio on harmonica. Whether playing a straightforward blues, a low-down vocal piece, or some country blues (which has an irregular number of bars per chorus), Little Freddie King shows a great deal of individuality, soul and passion throughout these enjoyable performances. While one might prefer the complete original releases, Fried Rice & Chicken (available form [sic] serves as an excellent introduction to the music of Little Freddie King who at the age of 78 is still active today.

---Scott Yanow


Originally published in LA Jazz Scene [September 2018]


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