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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Zombies, Zombies, Everywhere!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Zombie, zombie - man there's zombies everywhere."

Sounds like a bit of dialogue from some 1970s-era "B" movie, doesn't it?

If that were the case, one could imagine screams of terror and maybe even a gunshot or two in the background.

But in this particular case, that line isn't culled from a black-and-white George Romero flick.

It's the opening line from "Zombiefication," one of the standout cuts on the new album from the Tennessee-based blues duo, Elam McKnight & Bob Bogdal.

Appropriately enough, that album is titled Zombie+Nation (Desert Highway Records).

And in place of shrieks of terror, we get a healthy dose of screamin' guitar from McKnight, topped heartily with some howlin' harmonica, courtesy of Bob Bogdal.

This batch of zombies that McKnight is talking about, while not really hollow-eyed and after the flesh of the living, are still all around us, posing a threat, nevertheless.

"Bob and I talk a great deal when we are traveling and one thing we are struck with is how people these days are very easily duped into ways of thinking that sometimes are not based in reality. Where that becomes frustrating to us, is it creates all these figurative zombies stumbling around our country simply droning on about talking points that have been programmed into them," said McKnight. "Discourse in America seems to be pointless, because there are certain segments of our country who only want to tear things apart instead of starting from where we are and getting our act together. You want to ask them why, and have a discourse or discussion with some of these individuals, but they abdicated their minds a while back and are now, well, zombies."

Blues music has always been largely about social commentary -- from Leadbelly's "Bourgeois Blues" to "Viet Cong Blues" by Junior Wells - to B.B. King's "That's Why I Sing the Blues," the long history of this genre has always reflected the times it was recorded in.

And "Zombiefication" fits nicely into the blues ranks of 'this is what's happening now.'

But just because McKnight and Bogdal are savvy enough to point out the pitfalls of one not being able to think for themselves these days - and the imminent danger of that -that doesn't mean that spinning Zombie+Nation is like listening to an audio version of CNN.

Quite the contrary.

This disc kicks with all the power of a mule gone berserk.

That probably helps explain why a recent scan of The Roots Music Report found McKnight & Bogdal's disc proudly claiming the number 14 spot.

McKnight and Bogdal are bluesmen, no doubt about it, but that's not the end of the story for these two.

While they can slip into traditional electric Delta blues, or even Piedmont-sounding acoustic blues, with the ease that a farmer slides on a pair of overalls, these guys have their own thing going on.

They're not afraid to mix a little punk, or even some good ole' classic rock into the fray, making for one wild ride through the disc's 10 tracks.

"We are different and we embrace that. Also, lyrically and topically, we try to stretch things out and into places that your run-of-the-mill blues song does not go. We also got away from the 'sing-into-yonder-can' thing a long time ago," McKnight said. "To extend parts of a musical tradition, I think, you have to mix it up. It might take some people aback a bit, because it is different, but at the same time, a bit familiar. It is important for us to be a true representation of ourselves and the songs we create. We have our roots but are not tied to them at the hip."

McKnight and Bogdal scored a real coup for their new project, when they enlisted the help of drummer Tom Hambridge on the disc.

Hambridge, lately a mainstay of the legendary Buddy Guy's band, not only played and wrote songs on, but also produced, Guy's latest Grammy Award-winning disc, Living Proof.

"He was a total joy to work with," said McKnight. "We were very fortunate to be able to have him work with us on this album and his drumming sets the tracks on fire."

With Hambridge providing a sturdy platform underneath, McKnight and Bogdal take care of the audio carpentry work on top -- keeping things on Zombie+Nation movin' and groovin' along, masking it next to impossible to sit still while listening to the disc.

Which is probably a good thing.

Because the last place one wants to be when facing a horde of oncoming zombies is stationary and motionless, kicked back in a chair.

To check out Zombie+Nation, go to www.bigblackhand.com.