TBT – Lowell Fulson’s “Them Update Blues” is Great Blues
Editor’s Note: This week, Throwback Thursday looks at a classic from Lowell Fulson.
Lowell Fulson was born on an Indian reservation (although some say it was Tulsa) in Oklahoma in 1921. By the time he was 20 years old he had already formed a band that included an up and coming piano player named Ray Charles. In the ’50s he recorded for Chess Records on their Checker label, and later he would record for Night Train, Kent Records, Jewel, Rounder Records, and others. Most know him for his twelve bar blues, “Three O’Clock Blues,” written in 1946 and recorded by numerous artists over the years. He is also known for “Reconsider Baby,” another twelve bar blues written in 1954.
There is so much more to this great artist. His expressive guitar lines were elegant and sophisticated, yet powerful enough to be supremely emotive. He wasn’t flashy, but extremely technically proficient. His voice was rich and smooth as he delivered trials and tribulations of the everyday man. Fulson had a long and prolific career, issuing numerous albums.
1993 was a particularly eventful year, seeing him inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame as an artist, and winning Blues Foundation Blues Music Award for Traditional Album of the Year for Hold On. That same year, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation presented him with their Pioneer Award. In 1995 he was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album of the Year for Them Update Blues. Also that year, his recording “Reconsider Baby” was included in the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Issued on the Bullseye Blues label in 1995, Them Update Blues finds Fulson at the top of his game. The writing is good, the delivery is sublime, and the music is spectacular. The 11 songs here, all written by Fulson except one co-written with Ron Levy clock in at 42 minutes. Sound quality is excellent. Production is straight forward and tight. The mix is spot on and allows the full impact of these performances to be experienced by listeners. Personnel are Lowell Fulson – guitar and vocals, Terry “Big T” de Rouen – guitar, James B. Wyatt – bass, and Craig Kimbrough on Drums. Leon Haywood and Darby Hicks Jr. tickle the ivories, Wayne Jackson blows some mean trombone and trumpet, and Andrew Love plays some killer tenor sax. The real icing on the cake is The Memphis Horns whose playing elevates the music to a higher level, as they always do.
The music presented here is such a gift to listeners! The album opens with the steady soulful blues “What’s The Matter Baby,” which is followed by “Think About It,” with its slow, easy pace, great guitar comping, and tasty piano and horn touches. “Don’t Lie” is a thumping brilliant funky blues outing that is heavenly.
There are other standout cuts here as well. “Sun Going Down” is pure blues joy with its classic sound, enhanced by the horns and some ridiculously glorious guitar tone. There’s the light swinging rhythm of “Get on Down (Them Update Blues),” and “Too Soon To Tell” has a good time St. Louis, Kansas City flavor that will have listeners tapping along to it.
Anyone that has not heard Them Update Blues yet needs to experience this incredible music. Pick up a copy, bring it home, throw it on, and prepare to be wowed. There’s a reason why Lowell Fulson is a legend. Don’t miss out.