by Ian Mann
June 24, 2011
He's something of a slide/bottleneck specialist and his playing gives this collection of stripped down covers a pleasingly authentic feel.
Lil’ Ian Goodsman
“Out Of The Blue”
(Apollodorus Records APCD-001/002)
Lil’ Ian Goodsman is white blues guitarist/vocalist who mainly divides his time between New Zealand and the UK but has played all over the world. He specialises in acoustic country blues and this album, originally recorded in 2002 but re-released in 2008 contains a selection of sixteen classic country blues songs by the likes of Robert Johnson, Skip James, Big Bill Broonzy and many other giants of the genre.
“Out Of The Blue” features Goodsman’s own arrangements of these classic tunes and features just his voice and guitars (a John Hullah J15 acoustic and a National Style N Resonator). He’s something of a slide/bottleneck specialist and his playing gives this collection of stripped down covers a pleasingly authentic feel.
All the songs have been recorded many times before and are part of the repertoire of many contemporary blues artists. I’ve heard several of these tunes played at my local music pub, The Bell Inn in Leominster by artists such as Goodsman, Juke Joint John, Rev Ferriday and Martin Blake- talented guitarists all. The reason these songs remain so popular and enduring is that they’re bloody good and full of imagery that still sounds impossibly exotic to white middle class English ears. It’s that air of mystery and danger that still exerts an irresistible pull on music fans of a certain age. For younger listeners rap and hip hop perform a similar function, a vicarious dip of the toe in the (muddy) waters of the black experience.
Every tune on Goodsman’s album is a winner. The emotional range of the songs runs from the risque and bawdy (John Hurt’s “Salty Dog”, Willie Dixon’s “Built For Comfort” and others) to the ineffably bleak (Skip James’ “Cypress Grove”) while the Robert Johnson songs have a haunted, desperate quality all of their own courtesy of their apocalyptic/biblical imagery. Goodsman sings in a well articulated voice which works well enough, he doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not or try too hard to sound “black”. His guitar playing, whether picked or bottleneck is excellent throughout and “Out Of The Blue” is a thoroughly absorbing listen.
Whether these versions are an adequate substitute for the originals is a moot point but “Out Of The Blue” is certainly a good souvenir of Goodsman’s enjoyable live shows and it’s live performance that’s essential in helping to keep these songs alive. Indeed it’s a pleasure to see these songs performed in a pub environment, up close and over a pint, where the skill of the guitar playing can be appreciated first hand - on record this type of music can sometimes seem rather one dimensional. Goodsman and the other artists mentioned above all have a real love of their material that really comes out in their live shows where their between tune anecdotes also help to put flesh on the bones of some of these songs.
The full track listing on “Out Of The Blue” is as follows;
Falling Down Blues (Furry Lewis)
Sam’s Rag (Sam Chatmon)
Big Leg Woman (John Temple)
Bed Bug Blues (Lonnie Johnson)
Boll Weavil Blues (Huddie Ledbetter aka Leadbelly)
Key To The Highway (Big Bill Broonzy)
Preaching Blues (Robert Johnson)
Someday (Sleepy John Estes)
Salty Dog (Mississippi John Hurt)
Cypress Grove (Nehemiah Skip James)
Built For Comfort (Willie Dixon)
If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day (Robert Johnson)
Keep Your Hands Off Her (Big Bill Broonzy)
I’m Glad (Nehemiah Skip James)
Police Dog Blues (Bind Arthur Blake)
Country Boy (Muddy Waters)
Goodsman has recorded two similar collections “Drunken Hearted Man” (2004) and “Gambling Man” (2008) both of which also contain a smattering of original songs. He is currently touring the UK including a date at The Bell in Leominster. Details of recordings and tour dates can be found at