|James Blood Ulmer has experienced an artistic renaissance over the past decade. The acclaimed guitarist, who came to national recognition under the auspices of Ornette Coleman and was behind some of the 1980’s most visionary jazz recordings, has grown into an elder statesman of the blues. Through a series of celebrated albums with producer Vernon Reid, including Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions, No Escape From The Blues: The Electric Lady Session and Birthright, Ulmer demonstrated a gift for reinventing songs from the American blues canon, while simultaneously developing his own voice as a songwriter in the idiom.
On Bad Blood In The City: The Piety Street Sessions, James Blood Ulmer’s most recent collaboration with Vernon Reid and The Memphis Blood Blues Band, it’s his own material that carries the day. Built around a cycle of songs which directly address Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, Ulmer has delivered one of the most stirring and emotionally powerful albums of his career. There are also a handful of interpretations that serve to further explore Katrina’s sub-plot of race, poverty and struggle, including readings of Son House’s “Grinnin’ In Your Face,” Junior Kimbrough’s “Sad Days, Lonely Nights,” John Lee Hooker’s “This Land Is No One’s Land,” Bessie Smith’s “Backwater Blues,” Howlin Wolf’s “Commit A Crime” and Willie Dixon’s “Dead Presidents.”
When producer Vernon Reid was asked why record an album based around Hurricane Katrina now, he responded: “"It’s as important to record this music at this point in time then right after Katrina. With the media no longer focused on it, this is when the tragedy starts slipping to the back of our collective memories, but we can't ever forget what happened in New Orleans.” James Blood Ulmer’s Bad Blood In The City: The Piety Street Sessions is a loud and clear reminder.
James Blood Ulmer (guitar, vocals); Leon Gruenbaum (clarinet, Fender Rhodes, mellotron, Hammond organ, piano); Mark Peterson (bass); Vernon Reid (acoustic and electric guitars); Charles Burnham (electic fiddle, mandolin); Aubrey Dayle (drums, percussion)