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James Blood Ulmer

Bad Blood in the City: The Piety Street Sessions (Hyena)

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"There's power in the blues!" shouts James Blood Ulmer near the end of his new disc. All you can do is agree after the free-jazz guitarist and blues banshee doses you with hit after hit of uncut emotion --potent proof that the blues can speak to this century as much as it did to the last.

Bad Blood in the City, Ulmer's fourth disc produced by Living Colour hitman Vernon Reid, deals with the trials and tribulations surrounding Hurricane Katrina. For those who have already stuffed that tragedy up their memory hole, Ulmer pulls you right back into the storm with a voice grown deep, raw, and scary, and one cookin' band. Using his lyrics and those by such masters as John Lee Hooker and Junior Kimbrough, Ulmer drops a blues that is in-your-face immediate and classic in character.

If we can't escape the blues in the 21st century, it's good to know there's someone around who can still throw it down.

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