Ian Siegal & The Mississippi Mudbloods
Candy Store Kid
With Garry Burnside, Cody Dickinson, Luther Dickinson, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Lightnin’ Malcolm.
Release Date: Oct. 15th, 2012
Label: Nugene Records
Life isn’t just one flavour. Music shouldn’t all have the same taste. In the right hands, the blues can be a rainbow, and with Candy Store Kid, Ian Siegal has just painted his masterpiece. Released October 15 through Nugene Records, this latest album takes its name from a line in the song Loose Cannon, and the thrill that Ian felt as he pick-‘n’-mixed some of the greatest players on the contemporary blues scene (“You get to feeling like the proverbial kid in a candy store,” he recalls).
In Britain, Ian Siegal might be rocketing towards the status of national treasure, but for Candy Store Kid, the 41-year old once again quit the motherland for the US Southern state that’s becoming his creative catalyst, Mississippi. Lest we forget, it was the North Mississippi hill country, and specifically the Zebra Ranch studio in Coldwater, that provided the backdrop to Ian’s celebrated 2011 album, The Skinny, and for this latest album, he returned to work in the same productive environment.
Killer songs were only half the equation. Spin Candy Store Kid and you’re also hearing chemistry. As Ian stepped up to the microphone at Zebra Ranch in May this year, he was flanked by his dream-team of local legends that he collectively coined The Mississippi Mudbloods. Back from The Skinny sessions is producer Cody Dickinson: also a towering presence on drums, percussion and piano. Dickinson’s multi-instrumentalist brother and Black Crowes sideman Luther had joined Ian for a thrilling festival set in 2011, and naturally sprang to mind for guitar, bass and mandolin. Ian first met Alvin Youngblood Hart during the Skinny sessions, when the Grammy-winning guitarist swung by the studio and ended up tracking some guitar and backing vocals. There was a mutual desire to work together again, and for Candy Store Kid, he was welcomed back on bass, guitar and backing vocals.
Inevitably, when word spread that a limey musician was tearing it up at the local studio, Zebra Ranch became a drop-in centre, with cameos from Garry Burnside, who provides sizzling musicianship on four tracks and composition on Strong Woman; and Lightnin’ Malcolm, who penned So Much Trouble. Ian’s gravel-flecked voice was also supplemented on several songs by the soaring backup of Stefanie Bolton, Sharisse Norman and Shontelle Norman. The candy store was open for business…
With a fondness for “working under pressure and allowing the songs to evolve as we are recording”, Ian duly arrived at Zebra Ranch with only The Fear and I Am The Train written. It took balls, but the sessions flowed like Tennessee whisky, winding from the jut-jawed groove of Loose Cannon to the tender waltz of Rodeo. Even when they took on covers like Little Richard’s Green Power and Duke Bardwell’s Bayou Country, there was a sense of stellar musicians adding their own thumbprint.
Both musically and geographically, it’s a long way from Ian’s first artistic steps in early-’80s Britain, when he was forced to play down his love of rock ‘n’ roll to avoid a beating from the local Mods. “I was heavily into Little Richard and the rock ‘n’ roll side in my early teens,” he recalls, “and I really had to keep that quiet, because if you weren’t a mod, you’d get beaten up. I would have been perceived as being a Rocker, and that was death!”
When the blues-bug did bite, it wasn’t the work of the Sixties Brit-bluesers that was spinning on Ian’s stereo, but the originators from across the pond. “When I got into the blues in the ’80s,” he says, “it was easy to find the original records, so you didn’t have to discover it through John Mayall. Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters were two of the biggest influences for me, but I was just engrossed in everyone. Charlie Patton was a big one. Robert Johnson. Robert Cray as well, when I first started, trying to find those notes on my guitar.”
While others headed to London in search of a record deal, Ian spent his own formative career busking across Germany: an apprenticeship at the sharp-end that was no doubt responsible for the blood, sweat and soul of his stagecraft. The touring gathered pace and profile as he crossed Europe in 2003 and 2004 as support for ex-Rolling Stone Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, and his payback was a growing reputation, most palpably in mainland Europe. “If you’re prepared to get out there on the road, there’s definitely a living, especially in Europe,” Ian notes. “But I’m not saying it’s easy, and you certainly don’t get into this side of the business to make money. I’ve been unbelievably lucky.”
But Ian was always destined to be more than a great night out. He’d already released the Standing In The Morning album in 2002, but it was 2005’s debut release on Nugene, Meat & Potatoes, that woke up the mainstream, gaining plaudits including a maximum four stars in the Penguin Book of Blues Recordings. In 2007, his Swagger album did exactly what it said on the tin, prompting the best-selling British music magazine Mojo to rank it as the #2 Blues Album of the year, while 2008’s The Dust proved Ian was equally magnetic as a solo acoustic performer. With 2009’s Broadside, he became the first non-American to score the top spot in Mojo’s Blues Album Chart, while beyond the media headlines, the crowds were growing ever thicker and more vocal.
The groundwork had been laid and the dues paid, but every great artist needs a tipping-point when they shoot to the stars, and for Ian Siegal, The Skinny is it. Appropriately, given the Anglo-American alchemy involved, both sides of the Atlantic have been receptive, with sales climbing fast and Ian nominated for Best Contemporary Blues Album in the 2012 Blues Music Awards (often dubbed ‘the Blues Grammys’) and toasted by the British Blues Awards as Best Male Vocalist.
To any other artist, The Skinny might represent a dizzying, never-to-be-equaled creative peak. For Ian, however, it was merely a springboard to the new heights of Candy Store Kid: a record that he rates his best to date. It’s hard to argue faced with these 11 classic songs. In a scene where too much blues tastes the same, Candy Store Kid is an explosion of colours and flavours.
Tracks Ian Siegal & The Mississippi Mudbloods – Candy Store Kid
Bayou Country (2:46)
Loose Cannon (3:30)
I Am the Train (5:01)
So Much Trouble (4:18)
The Fear (5:08)
Earlie Grace Jnr (4:31)
Green Power (4:23)
Strong Woman (2:15)
Hard Pressed (What da Fuzz?) (5:04)