Three French musicians –Tia Gouttebel on vocals and guitar, Marc Glomeau on percussion, and Gilles Chabenet on the hudy gurdy (a traditional French instrument)– had a unique vision to combine the sounds of French music with the thumping drone of the music of the North Mississippi Hill Country. And what better way to pull that off than to spend some time in that region and immerse yourself in the music, played by some of the descendants of the Hill Country legends. After a year of preparation, the trio made it to Mississippi, in blues hotbeds such as Leland, Como, and B. B.’s birthplace, Indianola. The resulting recording is titled “Muddy Gurdy,” and shows how the blues has become a world-wide genre.’ Along for this joyous ride, we have Cedric Burnside, Sharde’ Thomas, Cameron Kimbrough, and Pat Thomas, adding to the air of authenticity due to their heralded lineage.
We were wholly unfamiliar with the hurdy-gurdy, but, in the skilled hands of Gilles, it sounds like a fusion of an accordion and a fiddle. Within the context of this material, it acts as a second guitar. The set opens with Cedric Burnside on guitar with a tune written by R. L. Burnside, “Goin’ Down South, where the chilly wind don’t blow.” He continues with a contemporary shout-out to his late brother wit the good-time rap of “That Girl Is Bad.”
Sharde’ Thomas brings her fife to the party with a nod to grandfather Otha Turner in “Station Blues,” a minor-key, dirge-like re-working of “Sittin’ On Top Of The World.” She becomes that “young woman chasin’ that big dream” on “Shawty Blues,” and closes her set with a traditional gospel read of “Glory Glory Hallelujah,” with Gilles’ hurdy-gurdy the perfect foil for her fife.
Cameron Kimbrough captures the energy and power of this music with the grungy “Gonna Love You,” as does Pat Thomas with our favorite. The set closes amid traffic noise in the background as Thomas’ eerie vocal takes you right down to the source of the mystery and myths of this region with his version of the crossroads tale, “Highway 61.”
With the addition of the French trio to the music of North Mississippi, “Muddy Gurdy” truly becomes a global affair. It further proves that two societies, as far apart in miles as they are in culture, can find common ground through the power of the blues!
By Sheryl and Don Crow, from the Nashville Blues Society, about Muddy Gurdy, Hypnotic Wheels’ second album which was released by VizzTone on February 2, 2018.
Read the review on their DonAndSherylBluesBlog.