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Coco Robicheaux - Louisiana Medicine Man (REVIEW - Blues Revue)

Orleans 2211

From the opening track, "Cottonmouth,"which commences with the sound of tree frogs and other assorted bayou creatures in full nighttime orgy, to the spooky dissonance of the closing title track, Louisiana Medicine Man will have swamp water dripping from your speakers. By employing unusual instrumentation and slightly surrealistic mixing techniques, Coco Robicheaux has created a moody, memorable and sometimes mysterious disc, one that evokes a strong sense of place and presents clear artistic vision.

This is not your average collection of blues shuffles, swing tunes and slow blues. Some of the songs have a blues-based structure, but the space mixes, with violins and harmonicas floating in and out of a swampy blend of pedal steel and guitar, let listeners know they're in for something different. Other songs aren't bluesy at all; "Juanita," for example, is a country tune, though it retains some of the swampy sonic sensibility. Curtis Arceneaux's poetic lyrics also venture beyond the clichés and double entendres most blues loves are accustomed to. Some of the lyrics work better on the page than others, butt all sound fine in performance as a result of Robicheaux's convincing delivery. His rich baritone can be appropriately sinister or tender, depending on the song's demands, sounding like Chester Burnett one minute and Brook Benton the next.

The overall tempo of the album is slightly downbeat; of course, it's hard to be upbeat and introspective at the same time. Standout tunes are "Cottonmouth," "Weight of the World" (which has a great brass arrangement), "Juanita" (yes, the country tune) and the title track.

So, with what's become a standard caveat - blues traditionalists beware! - let me say that I found this recording engaging and well-conceived. If your tastes run toward the eclectic and if mood matters more to you than a bouncy beat, you may find plenty to enjoy in this swampy brew.

---Tom Townsley


Originally posted in Blues Revue, Issue No. 43 [December 1998], pg. 36


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