Featuring: Christian Michael Berry
“Hoodoo Du Voodoo”
By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2021
The Swamp Poets are a Northern Arizona based American blues based roots music band. Their primary influence is the diverse styles of music from the Mississippi Delta region – they like to call it “American roadhouse swamp music”. Led by west coast music veteran Christian Michael Berry, the nucleus of the band includes several Northern Arizona Blues Alliance IBC winners. They are: Christian on lead and backing vocals, lead/rhythm/slide guitar, bass and mandolin; Jim Kelley on bass; Greg Funk on drums; Paul Epoch on harmonica; and Dr. Tim Whitcanack on keyboards, bass and accordion. For this project, additional Swamp Poets include: Sir Harrison Begay on lead guitar; Mick Townley on lead/slide guitar; Steve Tansey on bass, drums and backing vocals; Gary Van Slyke on bass and backing vocals; Chad Watson on trombone; Chris Elliot on trumpet; and Bill Basset on pedal steel.
“Hoodoo Du Voodoo” is the bands debut release and it contains twelve of Christian’s originals and three covers. Let’s go listen to some…..
On the opening track – “Dispense The Remedy” – you just might realize you’ve got some things in common with Christian. As he made statements like: “I don’t need no television, telling me what I should believe”: “I don’t trust no politician, trying to convince me that they should lead me”; “I don’t make no deals with the devil, because I can get in trouble all by myself”; and “I don’t need no doctors, I just need a remedy”; I realized I did. With the fierce rhythm being pounded out by Greg, Jim, and Tim on the drums, bass, and organ; the scorching guitar licks being laid down – first by Mick, then by Christian – on the lead guitar; and the piercing harmonica leads by Paul; it’s a musical powerhouse.
Be it from Chicago, Memphis, Mississippi or New Orleans, Christian’s “Waiting For The Call”. That said, the call won’t be from a person and it won’t come by way of a phone. According to Christian, “there’s nothing like a blues guitar to soothe my love gone wrong. I’m down in the bottom waiting for the call”. That call, by the way, came from the lead guitar of Sir Harrison Begey and it even cheered me up.
So, as a result of various types of storms, it’s not uncommon for cities pretty much anywhere to have occasional flooding. That said, not a lot of those floods will have you finding catfish and gators in your front yard or worrying about getting pulled down by big ol’ snapping turtles. Those things only happen during a “Delta Flood” – or as the lyrics detail it, six foot of Mississippi river in the middle of town. At barely over two minutes, there’s a lot going on here. With the handful of different but excellent bassists and drummers, the rhythm smokes regardless of the pairing (in this case it’s Steve on drums and Jim on bass); and with support from Gary and Steve, Christian’s enthusiastic lead vocals nearly had me wondering if I might need to put some sandbags down.
This song needs to be uploaded to everyone’s cell phone and listened to as often as necessary…..maybe even daily. It’s called “Every Bad Day” and the full verse goes “Every bad day, puts us closer to a good day.” Inspirational and uplifting indeed.
The next three songs all deal with vehicles – three very different vehicles. The first one is a big truck and it’s called “18 Wheels”. As if it’s not scary enough driving near these things in the first place, Christian’s got this one barreling down the mountain with it’s breaks on fire, and although he still has a thousand miles to go he’s not stopping for nobody till he get to see his baby again. YIKES! Fun and thankfully exaggerated lyrics. Musically, between the usual hard driving rhythm, Paul’s wicked harp leads, Tim’s frolicking accordion leads, Bill’s pedal steel and Christian’s mandolin, the hoedown country vibe actually brings that truck to life.
The next one is about one, and titled, “Caddilac” (sic). Although it’s not on fire and out of control, the band sure is. With it’s most aggressive rhythm yet and some crazy good guitar work highlighted by a monster slide guitar performance by Mick, this one is a three alarmer. As far as the car goes, it’s giving Christian a heart attack because his momma stole his Cadillac and she ain’t never coming back.
On the last of the three, the way Christian explains what’s wrong with this “Broke Down Car” sounds like me trying to tell my mechanic what’s wrong. Ya see, “the generator don’t gen, the carburetor won’t carb and the pistons don’t… work either”. It’s the only one of the three that’s not about a runaway vehicle or band on fire, but with the groove the guys are in here, it will surely fill the dance floor.
Although he didn’t write it, the way he puts his heart and soul into this country ballad, it sure sounds like he owned it. Hearing him emotionally tell his lady your are the “Joy Of My Life” (J. Fogerty), leaves no doubt about Christian’s sincerity. Besides the stellar vocal presentation the track is highlighted by outstanding mandolin (Christian) and pedal steel (Bill) performances as well. Great track!
Other tracks on this excellent debut release include: “Red Porch Light”; “Styrofoam” (D. De Vore); “This Old Guitar”; “Hard Going Up” (B. Crutcher); “Liar, Liar”: “I’m Drunk”, and “Jesus Drank Wine”.
“Hoodoo Do Voodoo” is available on all music platforms including Airplay Direct. Should you need the links, or prefer a hard copy, the best way to contact Christian is by sending an email to: [email protected]. As usual, when you do so, please say the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping the Blues Alive Recipient