|"Sittin' On Top of The World" is one of the great blues, in my view, and one of the most poetic and above it all in feeling.
Feeling and a sonic majesty that is all so human, his voice; James Blood's talking to the world, to himself, to the words, to the tune, to his guitar, which is talking on this new recording, Birthright, the inner tracing of the blues as a map and a history as inner and personal as James Blood Ulmer's mind.
Hear me, he sounds.
the covering over of skill
in the moment
but is it more than that?
"Oh the summer, oh the fall,
Just tryin' to find, my One and All
But now she's done gone, and I don't worry,
I'm sittin' on top of the world"
("Sittin' On Top of The World")
This version by James Blood Ulmer is a courageous lamentation, it speaks in a talkative political voice mixed with more or less equal parts rock, blues, folk, jazz, modal, which fail to describe, his voice a surprisingly low volume tremolo, his whanging guitar, a mellow voice overall after all.
"White Man's Jail" with opening chords like the Intro to "Stormy Monday" causes James Blood Ulmer to observe and assert:
"I ain't never been in no white man's jail
I ain't never ever been in no white man's jail
...Leaving me alone and free, only the Devil to bother me..."
James Blood concludes this tune, sarcastic and defiant.
There is a gripping inner meditation going on in this CD, something more than a singer/guitarist/flute player singing blues.
Something going on about an evolved spirit and a mind and a heart and an inner geography where a man knows who he is, and can proudly survive in this life. Some of us hear it this way.
Listen to his guitar, the hints of boogie woogie bass, the metallic open tunings, the energy core in his chords, the lyrical arc of his voice/his guitar.
Birthright. His guitar voice.
The Blues as Truth.