Whether it was playing in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, kicking dirt on the lines between funk and free jazz with Ornette Coleman or blowing out speakers on his own eclectic solo albums, guitarist and singer James Blood Ulmer has always approached American music with a fresh, inquisitive set of ears.
Ulmer's new Hurrican Katrina-influenced album, "Bad Blood in the City: The Piety Street Sessions," is no exception, as it finds the widely feted musician twisting the blues into all sorts of interesting shapes and sounds. "Sad Days, Lonely Nights" -- originally by northern Mississippi bluesman Junior Kimbrough -- is taken from the album and features the 65-year-old Ulmer's hoarse, urgent vocals riding a hypnotic guitar and harmonica riff. This is blues as angry, muddy music, closer in tone and temper to the anguished sounds of delta blues icons like Charley Patton and Skip James than to the music of B.B. King or Buddy Guy.
-- David Marchese