I can’t tell you much about this record. I’d really love to, but I can’t.
I’m legally forbidden from doing so.
The bluesman at the center of this record doesn’t want you to know who he is. And more importantly, he doesn’t want his fellow congregants to know.
You see, the artist is a religious man, and his church – like a lot of black churches in the Deep South - still regards blues music as sinful. That’s why he insisted I attribute this album to a pseudonym. He also specified that I divulge neither where he lives nor the specific juke joint where this CD was recorded during a single session in the fall of 2007.
As you might guess, getting this record made wasn’t easy. I approached the artist several times, and each time he demurred. I could tell he was interested, but it was also clear that something was holding him back. Eventually he confessed that his church community just wouldn’t understand. Dejected, I thanked him for his consideration and hung up the phone.
Hours later, I called back with the convoluted idea of releasing the CD under an alias. To my great surprise, he agreed, albeit with apprehension. To put his mind at ease, I drew up contracts prohibiting the other participants at the recording sessions from revealing his name during his lifetime.
This, of course, is an unusual arrangement even given the admittedly curious standards of Broke & Hungry Records. Throughout our short history, we’ve been willing and even eager to lose money in order to get great records made. We’ve worked with artists who steadfastly refuse to provide any kind of promotional support for our records. But this is the first time we’ve cut a record on an artist who refuses to admit that he even appears on one of our CDs.
So was it worth it? The delays? The hurdles? The subterfuge?
The answer is a resounding, “yes.”
The Mississippi Marvel is exactly the kind of bluesman that Broke & Hungry was formed to record, and this – his debut CD – is precisely the kind of record we strive to make. It’s raw, reckless and real.
As the music on this disc proves, the Mississippi Marvel possesses one of the most extraordinary voices in blues today. His guitar playing is all jagged lines and raw fury. Sure, his tuning is occasionally suspect, and he strikes a bum note or two, but there’s no questioning his utter commitment to the music.
Although many of the song choices here will be familiar to blues lovers, even the most familiar chestnuts become something surprising and wild in the hands of the Mississippi Marvel. And while many of these titles were written and perfected in big cities, here they are reduced to their primal essence.
There’s much about this great artist that I’d like to share with you. But for now, I’ll have to let the music speak for itself. And when the music is this good, what else really matters?
- Jeff Konkel/Broke & Hungry Records
released April 1, 2008
The Mississippi Marvel - guitar & vocals
Lightnin' Malcolm - drums (tracks 2-4, 7-9)
Jimmy "Duck" Holmes - harmonica (track 3)
Bill Abel - guitar (track 3)
Produced by Jeff Konkel
Recorded and mixed by Bill Abel, Big Toe Porta Studio
Production assistance by Roger Stolle
Mastered by Mark Yoshida, Audiographic Masterworks
Art direction and design by Joey Grisham
Photography by Jeff Konkel