The Amogla Sessions is a greatest hits package of sorts, though given today’s musical climate, it’s hard to imagine anything here reaching ‘hit’ status. Timed to coincide with a documentary about Floyd Lee, a 75-year old bluesman from New York, and his quest to find the family he was separated from for over sixty years before, it gathers material from Lee’s first four discs, all on his own Amogla label.
To say it’s all about Lee, though, would be misleading. He gets invaluable assistance from guitarist, songwriter, and musical foil Joel Poluck, young and white and from Canada, of all places. Such partnerships aren’t unheard of in the blues, though, and songwriter, guitarist, and producer Poluck is so attuned to Lee it’s as though the two share a single musical mind.
The Floyd Lee Band’s first three collections – Mean Blues, Ain’t Doin’ Nothin’ Wrong, and Full Moon Lightnin’ - were all in a fairly traditional vein, stark and brooding and punctuated by Poluck’s stinging guitar and squalling harmonica. Despite their origin, Poluck’s compositions sound like they’re lifted straight out of the Mississippi mud, oozing thick, greasy grooves. Things take a much darker turn, though, with material from the band’s latest release, Doctors, Devils & Drugs. Poluck is exorcising some pretty powerful demons with this one, reflected in the anger and agony of his heavily-distorted fretwork, all metallic menace and tortured, angular lines.
Lee, originally from Mississippi himself, is an old-school master, his vocals gruff yet eloquent in their unadorned honesty. Poluck, who hails from Canada, is a fine guitarist with an instinctive feel for the stark, brooding sound of the Delta. Covers include a handful of standards – “Mean Ol’ Frisco,” “It Hurts Me Too,” Jimmy Reed’s “Can’t Stand To See You Go,” and ‘Shake Your Moneymaker,” but to Poluck’s credit his own compositions fit seamlessly into the generous playlist
There are lots of outfits calling themselves blues bands these days, many well-intentioned but utterly clueless beyond being able to adhere to twelve-bar convention. This is the real stuff, raw and ripped straight from the soul, intended more for the cathartic release of the players than dancing and romancing among the audience. It’s neither slick nor fancy, but it’s unquestionably honest and utterly mesmerizing. There’s true greatness here …!