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|The Mississippi Marvel: Masked & Anonymous
28 June 2008
If you like T-Model Ford, Cedell Davis or Odell Harris, the Mississippi Marvel’s ”The World Must Never Know!” should make for a welcome addition to your CD collection. For me, it was nevertheless a slight disappointment – so I’d better start rationalizing to tell you why.
First off, one could well blame it on the sheer quality of the Broke & Hungry Records catalogue – after two brilliant CD’s by Jimmy ”Duck” Holmes and one wonderfully eccentric album by Odell Harris, it is but natural to expect miracles to continue with each new release Jeff Konkel puts together.
|Or it could be that the PR campaign associated with the Mississippi Marvel went a bit over the top and has backfired, at least in my case. For where the legend of Odell Harris – the guy the record label folks have only seen once, at the session – served to add further excitement to his music, the Marvel routine seems like something straight out of Mark Twain’s ”Huckleberry Finn”. Remember the king and the duke?
Of course, maybe it’s just my ignorance in all things American – so here are the facts, quoted from the Broke & Hungry Records website: ””The World Must Never Know” represents the debut recordings of a 78-year-old Delta bluesman dubbed the Mississippi Marvel. /---/ Although he still occasionally turns up at his neighborhood juke, the artist today devotes more attention to his local church community. And like many conservative black churches in the South, his still regards blues music as something shameful, even sinful. Fearing the rejection of this community, the artist steadfastly refuses to release any music under his own name.”
Not surprisingly, Jeff Konkel’s liner notes for the album begin with: ”I can’t tell you much about this record. I’d love to, but I can’t. I’m legally forbidden to do so.”
Nice copy - if only the story would stop there. But it doesn’t, for the Mississippi Marvel did go on the road to support the release. So for his CD release party, Konkel & Co. erected a tent inside a jukejoint so that the crowd could hear the music, but not see the performer; I hear there was standing room only.
Remember the king and the duke?
I’m unjust and hypocritically anti-hype here, I’m sure – but it seems unlikely I would be, had the resulting album been a wee bit more impressive. Mind you, there’s nothing really wrong with the CD – it has less mistakes and tuning errors than the Odell Harris record, it doesn’t suffer from overproduction like so many contemporary blues releases, the backing band features all the Broke & Hungry stalwarts, including Jimmy Holmes on harmonica on one track, and the Marvel does possess a nice voice...
Unfortunately, that’s about it. There’s nothing particularly original nor memorable about this material; I wouldn’t know it’s the Mississippi Marvel singing unless I saw a tent on stage. So hats off to Jeff Konkel for another PR coup, and better luck with the next one!
The Mississippi Marvel: The World Must Never Know! Broke & Hungry Records, 2008
The Mississippi Marvel (vocals, guitar), Lightnin’ Malcolm (drums), Jimmy ’Duck’ Holmes (harmonica), Bill Abel (guitar)
Producer: Jeff Konkel
Links: Broke & Hungry Records website and MySpace, Jeff Konkel interview