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Billy C. Farlow featuring Mercy - Alabama Swamp Stomp

Crosscut Records

14 tracks/54:43

His name sounds vaguely familiar – but you can't quite place it. Well, Billy C. Farlow was a founding member of Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, the band that expertly mixed old Country music and rock-n-roll into a heady brew that made the band a top live act and garnered them several hits including a remake of “Hot Rod Lincoln”. Farlow was one of the band's vocalists and also added his blues-based harp to the proceedings. He also wrote many of the group's best-known tunes, like “Seeds & Stems” and the band's theme song, “Lost in the Ozone”. In the last thirty-five since leaving The Airmen, Farlow has released a number of recordings under his name. He also served a lengthy stint in legendary blues drummer Sam Lay's band.

Recorded last year in France, Farlow's latest project is a rompin', stompin good time that is guaranteed to make you put on your dancing shoes! His outstanding band sounds like they are veterans of years of touring bars and dance halls across the southern USA. But Mercy is a French band featuring Jean-Paul Avellaneda on guitar & dobro, Bruno Quinonero on bass and Stephane Avellaneda, Jean-Paul's son, on drums and percussion with all three also contributing backing vocals.

The opening track, “Snake Eyes” comes straight out of the Alabama swamp with the leader's deep, gravelly voice describing a woman who was nothing but trouble. The dark mood continues on “Runnin' From the Fire” with Jean-Paul's searing guitar work emphasizing Farlow's description of a white-hot love affair. The band locks into a tight groove on “Drive Me Like a Mule”, as Farlow makes it clear he will do whatever his woman wants as long as she's not playing him for a fool. “Good Rockin' Mama” has Farlow working the upper register on his harp in the Jimmy Reed-style while Jean-Paul plays slide on his dobro, giving the track a lazy, backporch feel. The forceful beat and more fine harp playing by Farlow ensures that “Tennessee Saturday Night” lives up to the promise in the title. “Magnolia Darlin'” offers more of Jean-Paul's sumptuous guitar work.

The easy-rolling tempo Jean-Paul's reverb-drenched guitar tone make the slow blues, “What Have I Done”, another highlight as Farlow gropes to understand the misfortune all around him. The band rocks hard on “My Name is Trouble” with Jean-Paul's piercing slide guitar a memorable part of the arrangement. “Juke Joint Friday Night” is vicious shuffle that will cure all that ails you. The loose, greasy feel on “Alligator Crawl” is the perfect backdrop for Farlow's husky vocal as he attempts to start a new dance craze. The band shifts gears on two traditional work songs, delving into voodoo on “Yellow Pocahontas” powered by Stephane's percussion while “Black Lazarus” speaks to the power of the Judgement Day. But they quickly return to their rockin' roadhouse style on “Jenny's Comin' Home”, with Farlow lamenting the absence of his cheatin' woman but still vowing to bring her back home.

This is the kind of stuff I live for as a reviewer – a disc that comes out of nowhere and knocks you for a loop. Alabama Swamp Stomp has been a fixture in my cd player since the first listen – and deserves one those “Meant to be played Loud” warning labels. I heartily encourage you to make the effort to check this one out. Farlow and Mercy throw one hell of a party !!!

Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. He has been listening to music of all kinds for fifty years. The first concert he attended was in Chicago with The Mothers of Invention and Cream. Life has never been the same.

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