September 30, 2004

Test Spin: Little Axe

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Little Axe, complete with designer sunglasses, collared hat, derby hat, and a joint, looks pretty cool in the liner notes of Champagne and Grits. As the title and picture suggest, he is a man of both class and humbler roots. His music further reflects this notion — the first track “Grinning In Your Face” features his edgy, contemplative voice and simple guitar picking. You can tell there’s a long story behind Axe’s slow blues. But, all of a sudden, where does the one-man brilliance go? By the time you get to track three, you’ll have all but forgotten what Little Axe is really like. In an unfortunate modern trend, blues artists can’t be just that anymore — now their music is rife with boring drummers, electronic vocal distortions, and general over-production. For a brief moment in “Walk On Water” there’s a clip, perhaps from the good old days, of Axe playing simple, beautiful solo blues, only to fade out into another mundane song.

The good thing about Little Axe is that he’s a good musician, and that aspect will at least never completely disappear from his recordings. For example, Axe found a wonderful female vocalist for “Say My Name” and his lamenting guitar is more prominent as well. “Living And Sleeping In A Dangerous Time,” does feature Little Axe’s dexterous fingers, but the song is only a minute long. It’s this temptation that still makes the album acceptable — we can’t see Axe’s brilliance outright, but it’s in there somewhere.

Archived article by Elliot Singer
Red Letter Daze Contributor