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Monday, Feb. 13, 2012

Little Freddie King

Chasing Tha Blues (Burnside)

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Amid the piquant stew of jazz, funk, soul, zydeco and R&B that is the scorching New Orleans music scene, the blues is largely relegated to the back burner. Surprisingly, there are no blues-only clubs of the likes found in Chicago, New York or Memphis, and especially hard to catch is the brand of urban blues espoused by Little Freddie King. That doesn't stop the supposed cousin of Lightnin' Hopkins from working his fingers to the bone, riding his bike between a tireless schedule of joints around the Marigny and Bywater.

The latest from the Mississippi-bred King finds the guitarist comfortable in his sweet spot of slow shuffles and light boogie. There's hardly much of a nod to his namesake and hero—the scorching Texas six-string gunslinger—and a much more laid-back, old-man-drawl delivery, signifying the pace of life in his adopted hometown and what sounds like a very low-hanging sun. Much here is Chess Records formulaic and borderline sleepy (if you've heard the first verse, you've heard 'em all). But King maintains legit bluesman cred when he uncorks his sly vocab of single-note runs, and in that certain indefinable thing that you can sense if you've ever heard a Northerner try to describe a drive through rural Mississippi.

Certainly not the most original of modern blues albums, Chasing still offers a glimpse of a worthy torchbearer and insight into a slightly, strangely marginalized idiom. Perhaps most importantly, though, is that the disc offers something for King, one of the undisputed sovereigns of the New Orleans happy hour, to sell at his many post-work gigs.