Home Read Classic Album Review: James Blood Ulmer | No Escape From the Blues

Classic Album Review: James Blood Ulmer | No Escape From the Blues

The free-jazz trailblazer is drawn back to his 12-bar roots on this powerhouse set.

This came out in 2003 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Even intrepid explorers have to head home now and then. Take James Blood Ulmer.

The New York guitarist has spent decades trailblazing and charting the outer regions of free jazz. But every so often — like on his umpteenth album No Escape From The Blues — the 61-year-old Ulmer is drawn back to his 12-bar roots. Recorded in Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios, this dozen-song set captures Ulmer in a relaxed and playful frame, laying back on Jimmy Reed’s Bright Lights, Big City, grooving his way through John Lee Hooker’s You Know, I Know, croaking out a Tom Waitsian take on Howlin’ Wolf’s Who’s Been Talkin’, offering a Delta-inspired version of his own Are You Glad To Be In America? — and, in keeping with the setting, cranking up to crank out a Jimi-like version of Let The Good Times Roll. As always, the solos are bold and blistering, albeit free of the harmolodics of his more avant-garde work. But so what? Sometimes, as any explorer knows, you have to step back to move forward.


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