It was a tough call to make: do I pimp Papa Mali’s entire 1999 release Thunder Chicken or just quickly gush over just one of the tracks? There are certainly enough tasty bits in Chicken to justify the full unpaid advertisement (I wrote the first review of it in Amazon more than six years ago), but I’m going to take the easy way out and focus on Mali’s Buddy Guy cover “Man Of Many Words.”
Malcolm “Papa Mali” Welbourne hails from that mini music mecca called Shreveport, Louisiana. Yeah, you read me right: this is the place where John Campbell and Brian Blade came from as well.
Mali learned his blues from Campbell and later honed his reggae chops as a member of local Austin, TX, favorites The Killer Bees, and is still based out of Austin, today. Given the potent mixture of creole, blues, rock, funk, reggae and God knows what else that makes up his musical profile, Papa seamlessly blends it all together like the veteran musician he’d become by the time he put together his Instagators in the nineties.
Maybe it was an obvious move for Malcolm to cover a song by a fellow Louisiana-born blues guitarist like Guy, but to completely rework a damned good tune to the point where it’s unrecognizable and still match the original is an admirable feat. Buddy’s 1972 version is Stax-styled R&B ditty where he gives both a credible vocal performance and an eye opening, skittering guitar solo.
However, Mali slows it down to a swampy groove that’s as gritty as all get. Papa Mali’s vocals are way laid back and full of ad libs to let you know he’s having fun and you should be, too. His rhythm guitar is up front and greasy, the bass is delightfully skronky from over-amplification but it’s Barry’s “Frosty” Smith’s drums that do it for me. It’s some of the funkiest freaking rumbling on the skins you’ll hear anywhere. After a Maceo-inspired sax solo by Tomas Ramirez, Frosty seals the deal with a killer drum filler at 2:38 and then shows his stuff again in a mini solo toward the end of the track.
“Man Of Many Words” in the Instagators style is a feel good song that gets butts moving with a creole, organic groove in much the same way that The Meters used to do. If you’re not at least swaying to this, have the doctor check you out for a lost sense of rhythm.
“One Track Mind” is a weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too. Downloads are low quality rips available for only about a week.