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Monday, Dec. 23, 2013

Lightnin Malcolm: Rough Out There (ShakeDown Records)

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 As a member of the North Mississippi Allstars, Lightnin Malcolm is best known for his raw bass playing, deeply rooted in Southern-fried blues. But on his latest solo album, Rough Out There, the man plays guitar, sings and reveals plenty of other musical personalities.

Rough Out There opens with a pair of straight-ahead blues cuts: the honky-tonker “Workin’ ” and the bop-till-you-drop “My Life’s a Wreck.” He cues up the big horns on the funky pop of future Mississippi dancehall classic “Dellareesa,” “Reality Check” dabbles in reggae blues, the title track smolders with slow-burn hip-hop, and North Mississippi Allstar’s Luther Dickinson shows up with his slide guitar for the pretty country ballad “Givin’ You Away.” Rough Out There closes with “How Blessed You Are,” a powerful Christian-influenced R&B cut that makes the mistake of using Auto-Tune.

By keeping most of this music as universal as possible, Rough Out There simplifies life’s most complex issues—which is the album’s greatest strength.