Photocredits: Mike Latschislaw

INTERVIEW WATERMELON SLIM

Dit voorjaar verscheen ‘Golden Boy’, het zevende album van Watermelon Slim. De singer/songwriter/gitarist uit Clarksdale, Mississippi leverde wederom een ijzersterke collectie van nieuw materiaal af waarin de blues weliswaar een belangrijk aandeel vormt maar waarin ook diverse andere stijlen uit de rootsverwante hoek voorbij komen. Ook nu is de bevlogen muzikant er weer in geslaagd om de luisteraar aan het denken te zetten met zijn teksten. Slim staat er om bekend geen blad voor de mond te nemen. Onlangs werd ons de mogelijkheid geboden de muzikant enige vragen te stellen. Uiteraard grepen wij deze kans om met hem van gedachten te wisselen met beide handen aan en blikten met hem nog eens terug op de totstandkoming van ‘Golden Boy’.

Door Jeroen Bakker

IT’S BEEN A WHILE SINCE ‘BULL GOOSE ROOSTER’, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN EXCEPT FOR THE TOURING PART IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS?

— Part of my work during the years between the re-election of President Obama and the present day has been geopolitical and economic analysis. In 2013 I amicably parted from Intrepid Artists, my booking agency. In order to operate more independently. Some would say that I had acted in error. I certainly have not concentrated on the making of money in my musical career. More importantly, though, I have had to concentrate on national and world events. Often to the placing of secondary priority on my musical career. Most recently I have had to concentrate upon an investigation of the criminal completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. This investigation proved futile because the main stream press, and even the alternative press, refused to allow access to their organizations with the breaking news that I and my investigative team offered them. The pipeline has now flowed oil since June 1st. Already, as we predicted, there has been a spill, minor, but nonetheless exactly what we warned them about. We warned them. We warned not only the press and the politicians but the tribe itself, that this would happen. Now the tribe understands and is fighting in Federal court to stop the flowing of oil in the pipeline. We had them dead to rights during the time between the election of Donald Trump and his reversal of the Obama Administration’s order of cessation of drilling activities and the conducting of an environmental impact statement by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Energy Transfer Partners, Inc. continued to drill in defiance of the Army Corps. This was criminal activity but was protected by a dozen law enforcement and investigative jurisdictions.

PEOPLE HERE LOVE TO SEE YOU PLAY AND YOUR ALBUMS ARE WIDELY ACCLAIMED. HOW ABOUT THE SUCCESS (NOT COMMERCIALLY!) IN THE STATES?

— I continue to have fans around the United States and around the world however, as you have noted in the question that success does not extend to the commercial sphere. One can hardly expect it to. Commercial success is based upon what an artist or any other seller of a product is offering in the present. When I left Intrepid (and my recording label of the time, NorthernBlues Music, in Canada), that also meant that I no longer received publicity. People no longer heard about me. The principle, “What have you done for me lately?”, applies.

YOU STARTED A LOVE AFFAIR WITH CANADA IN 2003. 14 YEARS LATER YOU DEDICATE AN ALBUM TO THIS NATION. DOES THE CURRENT POLITICAL SITUATION IN YOUR HOME COUNTRY HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH THIS?

— The current political situation in my country has to do with everything that I do or say or record.

SAME QUESTION AS MENTIONED ABOVE, HOW ABOUT THE SONG ‘WINNERS OF US ALL’ THAT YOU WROTE MANY YEARS AGO?

— Same, though that song, one of the two most complex songs that I have ever written — one of only two songs I ever wrote in staff music— more specifically refers to the plight of the lowest and most at-risk parts of the American Working Class.

THE NEW ALBUM ALSO CONTAINS OTHER INFLUENCES EXCEPT FOR BLUES AND ALL KINDS OF TRUE AMERICAN ROOTS-RELATED STYLES. DOES MODERN MUSIC INSPIRE YOU AS WELL? ARE THERE ANY MUSICIANS NOWADAYS WITH WHOM YOU HAVE AN ASSOCIATION?

— What is Modern Music? There are young up-and-coming blues artists like for instance, Christone Ingram, Noah Weatherspoon, Marquise Knox, Jesse Cotton Stone and others, whom I admire because they are learning the Blues from the right people and (to the extent possible in a post-industrial world) in the right way.

YOU ARE VERY WELL KNOWN BECAUSE OF YOUR SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS WHICH RESULTS IN STRONG LYRICS. ARE THERE MANY DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY PEOPLE FROM DIFFERENT STATES RESPOND TO THIS? DID THESE SOMETIMES CAUSE YOU ANY TROUBLE LIKE YOU ASK YOURSELF IN ‘DARK GENIUS’?

— Good question there, Dutchman! Not specifically. My lyrics have not been directly responded to in a negative manner. A more common response is that they are ignored.

MOST OF YOUR SONGS ARE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL, WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO PERFORM AND RECORD YOUR VERSIONS OF ‘BARRETT’S PRIVATEERS’ AND ‘YOU’RE GONNA NEED SOMEBODY ON YOUR BOND’?

— Barrett’s Privateers is the second of the most famous songs written by the late Stan Rogers of the Canadian province of New Brunswick. The first of those two songs may be found on my previous CD Bull Goose Rooster. The first of those two songs, Northwest Passage, is widely considered to be the unofficial Canadian national anthem. Stan Rogers was a huge man who wrote songs bigger than himself and died heroically pulling people out of a burning airplane. I have been singing his songs since the 1980s. Rogers’ son, Nathan Rogers, is part of the male choral group that backs me on Barrett’s Privateers. No more solid musical connection could ever be made between Watermelon Slim and the nation of Canada which I will always

YOU ALREADY DID RECORD MATERIAL FROM MISSISSIPPI FRED MCDOWELL, SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON, BIG JOE WILLIAMS, WOODY GUTHRIE, AND BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON. CAN YOU PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOUR CONNECTION WITH THEIR MUSICAL LEGACIES?

— ‘You’re Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond’ is one of the most important songs in the legacy of the Reverend Blind Willie Johnson. I have been singing this song since the 1960s, before I ever tried to play the guitar. It is the only traditional-era piece of music on Golden Boy. It is , therefore, the deepest expression of the strain of Americana running through this Canadian-recorded CD. The first blues I ever completely incorporated into my musical repertoire was “I Don’t Care No More” , by Sonny Boy Williamson, from an LP from 1963 in which Sonny Boy was backed in a live performance by the English group The Yardbirds, including Eric Clapton.

FAMOUS LAST WORDS/ HOT NEWS / SUBJECTS NOT FORGET TO MENTION.

— Thank you all, Blues fans, and all musical enthusiasts, for the support you’ve given me for all these decades. I’m still marching strong. God Bless you!


Photocredits: Mike Latschislaw