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LITTLE FREDDIE KING - Fried Rice & Chicken [REVIEW - Living Blues]

Orleans Records - ORL 2918 (LP)

Little Freddie King’s debut album, known as Rock ’n’ Roll Blues, was issued on the Ahura Mazda label in 1971. Nearly three decades would pass before the guitarist and singer’s next release, Swamp Boogie. The 1995 Orleans Records CD would bring King a new level of visibility, and in the years since he has only grown in stature, rightfully taking his place as one of New Orleans’ blues elders. Orleans has just reissued some of his ’90s recordings on vinyl, and Fried Rice & Chicken is both a welcome listen for King fans and a fine introduction to his brand of raw, country yet urbane blues.

Side A of Fried Rice & Chicken features six songs from Swamp Boogie, and five cuts from King’s 1999 live album Sing Sang Sung fill out Side B. King performs a variety of originals, instrumentals and covers that showcase his versatility and the roots of his style. The wonderfully slinky and sexy instrumental Cleo’s Back, dripping with funk, is a note-perfect example of Crescent City blues, while the mournful Mean Little Woman takes a more traditional turn. The influence of his namesake, Freddie King, can be heard on his loping, stinging version of Hide Away. Kinky Cotton Fields is a spirited nod to Lead Belly, and Jimmy Reed filters through King’s own I Use to Be Down and his aching, raw-voiced cover of Reed’s Honest I Do.

The live tracks show King truly in his element, chicken-picking his way through Sing Sang Sung and Bad Chicken to the crowd’s delight. His licks turn razor-sharp on the woeful Do She Ever Think of Me, lending it a dangerous subtext; drummer Wacko Wade Wright’s tightly percolating beat underscores the song’s sense of unease.

It’s great to have these recordings available on vinyl; the sound on both the studio and live tracks is warm, clear and pleasant to the ear. From start to finish, Fried Rice & Chicken is a feast of deliciously funky New Orleans blues as only Little Freddie King can serve up.

—Melanie Young


Originally published in Living Blues #255 (June 2018), pg. 73


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