“The Bodhisattva Blues”
Treated And Released Records
Publicity: Blind Raccoon
By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © Apr. 2020
Reverend Freakchild is no stranger to us here at Mary4Music. Back when we were producing our “Mary4Music Presents: Keeping The Blues Alive” series of compilation discs, his song “A Day Late And A $ Short” appeared on Volume Two ( 2012).
Should you be wondering, Reverend Freakchild – having a degree in philosophy and religion from Northeastern University – is indeed a Reverend. Should you also be wondering, Reverend Freakchild – who is also known as: Fordham; Bhumisparsha; Reverend Fairchild; Reverend Lovechild; Rev. Freakwater; Rev. Freakshow; Fordomatic; Dr. Freakjoy; Billy; Sal Paradise; Swaraj; Floyd Graves; Reverend Freakease; Rev. Voodoochile; and The Artist Formerly Known As Reverend Freakchild – is indeed a Freakchild as well.
Although he grew up in Hawaii, you can trust me when I tell you that Don Ho was definitely not one of his musical influences. That came from the music the “hippy freaks” in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco were tuning in and dropping out to. As the Reverend likes to say, his music is “Psychedelic Country Blues”. If the Grateful Dead come to mind – bingo! As a matter of fact, most of the musicians on this disc are alumni of bands from the Dead’s family tree of bands.
“The Bodhisattva Blues” is Reverend Freakchild’s very impressive twelfth release. The credits list twelve tracks but with one being an eight second chant and another being a less than ninety second thank you and goodnight bid, you’ll realistically hear ten well done songs. Of those, one is an original with the other nine being easily recognizable covers.
Straying from his normal (did I just say that?) routine of performing solo, for this project the Reverend – on vocals, slide and rhythm guitar and harmonica – assembled over a dozen-and-a-half talented musicians and friends. They are: Chris Parker, Gregor and Patrick Carmichael on drums; Melvin Seals on organ; Hugh Pool on harmonica, lap steel and backing vocals; Robin Sylvester, Malcolm Oliver, Phil Marino and Jon “Bones Richie” Robinson on bass; Mark Karan and Alex The Dragon on lead guitar; Scott “Shack” Hackler on piano; Jason Hann on percussion; A. J. Fullerton on slide guitar; Paul Soderman, Sean Condron and Mamie Mench on backing vocals; Drew Glackin on lap steel; and Jay Collins on Bansuri flute.
After a chant of the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”, the music starts off with “I Can’t Be Satisfied”, the 1948 hit that pretty much put Muddy Waters on the music map. Sounding like a hybrid of Muddy’s original and the version the Rolling Stones did, Reverend Freakchild is all over the vocals (growls & howls included) and slide guitar on his rendition. That, along with Chris Parker powering the rhythm with a hell of a performance on the drums, easily make this one of the disc’s best.
There are a select group of artists that whenever I’m doing an album review and a cover of one of their songs appears on it, I just cannot pass on mentioning it. They, and their music, are that compelling. In this particular case, the song is Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man” (Reed/Dixon/Smith). Jimmy’s style of harp blowin while hitting those high end notes has always been my favorite and right here, Hugh Pool’s hitting them as good as Jimmy did. Also sounding as good as Jimmy, is the swagger the Reverend’s tossing out while ‘woikin’ those vocals. Another of this highlight’s highlights include several nice lead guitar solos.
Similar to my thoughts above on certain artists, another one is Willie Dixon and this time the song is “Little Red Rooster”. Everything about this one: from the Reverend’s barnyard sounds, lead vocals and slide guitar; to the rhythm of Chris and Malcolm on the drums and bass; to Hugh’s harmonica and lap steel performances; and to killer piano leads on Scott’s one and only appearance on the disc; all add up to nothing short of masterful.
Being a Deadhead, and having a slew of their musical offspring on your recording, not covering “Friend Of The Devil” (Garcia/Hunter/Dawson) would be a sacrilege. Even this non Deadhead considers it his favorite of their work. As you might expect, the band nailed it.
The original track “Sweet, Sweet You” was first recorded on a previous Reverend Freakchild release. It’s a tribute to many of the Reverend’s favorite fallen stars including Drew Glackin, who is actually putting on the monster lap steel performance you’ll hear on the track. The song’s inspirational lyrics; the Reverend’s heartfelt and emotionally charged presentation of them; and the heavenly chanting of the backing vocals by Sean and Mamie; all up this one to hymnal level.
The band does one hell of a job on a track by a fellow Reverend that was also covered by the Dead, “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” (Reverend Gary Davis). It’s a soulful, acoustic masterpiece with a flawless acoustic slide guitar and flute performance by Reverend Freakchild and Jay Collins.
Not being a Deadhead, had I not read this on the one sheet I’d have never known it. That said, the disc closes with a farewell titled “And We Bid You Goodnight” – a verse they used to close their shows with.
Other tracks on what may be Reverend Freakchild’s best effort yet include: “I Know You Rider” (Traditional); “Black Peter” (Garcia/Hunter); “Yer Blues” (Lennon/McCartney) and “Imagine” (Lennon).
To find out more about Reverend Freakchild just go to www.treatedandreleasedrecords.com and should you have not yet received your copy of “The Bodhisattva Blues” for airplay, just contact Betsie Brown at www.blindraccoon.com. Wherever you go and whomever you talk to, please tell them that the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping the Blues Alive Recipient