In the past couple of years Watermelon Slim and his band The Workers have really taken the blues world by storm. Last year they racked up six nominations for the Blues Music Awards (a feat matched only by B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Robert Cray), as well as a host of accolades from fans and critics alike.
Slim and his crew are far from being overnight sensations. In fact, probably the only way you could take a longer way to stardom would be to die first and then make your come back. And that is nearly what happened to Watermelon Slim.
In 2002 Slim suffered a near fatal heart-attack. The brush with death gave him a new perspective and served to give direction to a life that had already many turns. Over the course of the last 30 plus years he has fought in Vietnam, been a truck driver, firewood salesman, an official at funeral, as well as an Oklahoma watermelon farmer. While he still resides in Oklahoma, he no longer farms watermelons for a living; a great thing for us.
The Wheelman is the fourth album by Watermelon Slim and the second with the Workers and in my opinion, just as good if not better than the first. These guys are authentic blues musicians; old school, been through it all and it shows in the way they perform both at their shows, and on the CD.
From the first of "The Wheel Man" you get the feel of what this CD is all about. It is about the blues. The interaction of Magic Slim with Watermelon Slim is timeless. "I've Got News" rocks the blues with a bit of swing for good measure. "Black Water" has a real Delta/Bayou rhythm. You can almost hear a bit of "Born on the Bayou" guitar sound playing off the slide leads.
"Jimmy Bell" is nothing but a bass drum, harmonica, and Watermelon Slims almost a cappella. You don't need anymore, do you? "Newspaper Reporter" laments that he was not able to drink beer on the job. This is a slow piano blues that really tinkles the old ivories. "Drinking and Driving" transitions to a driving beat that picks up the pace with its lively harmonica solos.