Watermelon Slim - Escape From The Chicken Coop - Reviews

 
Escape From The Chicken Coop

"Some artists in today's crop have a hard time being pigeonholed by critics, music stores, and record labels. Don't you hate it when you go to a certain aisle of a music store and find an artist or an album by artist that shouldn't be there? I imagine that Watermelon Slim is going to have alot of those kinds of folks scratching their heads when they get ready to put Escape From the Chicken Coop out on their store shelves or go to write a review for their magazine. Luckily, here at JJS we recognize that good American music is simply that. Blues fans, Blues-Rock fans, classic country, jazz, swing, rockabilly, and southern rock can all be heard in a juke joint! Remember all the classic blues artists played variety at house parties, jukes, and barns to keep the alcohol flowing and the people dancing. Genres and pigeonholed artistry is a method of modern invention, though sometimes it does serve its purpose. Slim's music either in blues or now in country has always managed to blur those lines. Slim knows that country and blues have a close kinship. Back in the early days of recording, the marketing between blues and country sadly boiled down to race relations. Hank Williams, Sr. learned guitar from an African-American blues player in Birmingham, Alabama named Tee-Tot. The godfather of modern country music Jimmy Rogers used African-American musicians in his backing band at the recording studios. Son House, Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson and a host of other blues players recorded in the same studios as many popular country artists in their time. In the Piedmont, blues and bluegrass from the area is hard to distinguish apart to the untrained ear...

"...It's hard to tell where Slim's comfort zone is - blues or country. It's a good thing because artists should just be comfortable with themselves. Slim's passion lies in the fact of making good music that is both relevant to himself and to anyone who might be listening. Blues fans might be turned away from the twang that paints a wide swath across the album. It's definitely country. However, true blue blood Watermelon Slim fans will find Slim's passion irresistable. It's a strong step in a different direction that can sometimes kill an artist's following. However, Slim's never been one to play by the rules. He does his things his own way like many of his own musical heroes. Something tells me that somewhere in the country, Watermelon Slim is becoming a musical hero to another artist out there refusing to play by the music industry's rules and just make damn good music. Ride on, Slim!"

-Ben the Harpman
Juke Joint Soul
October, 2009 

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"Watermelon Slim took the blues world by storm in recent years, being nominated for 17 Blues Music Awards in just four year. Not bad for a fellow who broke into the music business way back in 1973 with a fiercely anti-war album based on his time as a soldier in Vietnam and then spent a lifetime working in various blue collar jobs, especially as a truck driver. Escape from the Chicken Coop has been called Slim's country album. And it is indeed filled with songs about truck drivers and a life spent driving the 'low boys' and 'high beds.' But this album will not disappoint Slim's blues fans. Rather it shows another dimension of this artist's amazing talent...

"...Watermelon Slim is not just trying to cash in on country with
Escape from the Chicken Coop. This is a man who has lived the blue collar world of constant economic uncertainty that creates the blues today for millions of Americans, both black and white. These 13 songs would sound perfect playing in any truck stop or juke joint from Baton Rouge to Boise. Watermelon Slim is the real deal as a bluesman. He has created an authentic country album with blues sensibilities. Hank Williams would understand it perfectly."

-Blurt Online
September, 2009 

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"People are always surprised to hear that I like country music. I'm not sure what a country music fan is supposed to look like, but whatever it is I'd hazard a guess that I don't fit the image. On the other hand the country music I tend to like isn't the stuff one hears on the radio on a regular basis, so maybe that explains a good deal of people's confusion. For as far as I'm concerned the stuff that gets passed off as country music on the radio these days is just so much sentimental twaddle which shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath as music written by Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Graham Parsons, and Emmylou Harris.

"I don't seem to the only one dissatisfied with the rhinestone and Stetson crowd either as in recent years there's been a resurgence of interest in, for lack of a better word, traditional country music. Whether it's people rediscovering the joys of an old Hank Williams tune, or new performers recording songs that harken back to the older sound, it appears people are finally getting sick of the plastic heart that beats at the centre of mainstream country. Oh they've created all sorts of new categories within which to slot this new stuff; Americana, alt-country, or even roots music; so they can keep calling the shlock on the radio country, but when you hear an album like Watermelon Slim's new release,
Escape From The Chicken Coop, on the Northern Blues label, there's no disguising who or what it really is.

"Now most of you probably know Watermelon Slim as a blues artist, one of the most well respected and awarded blues artists in recent memory as he's won almost every award offered to a contemporary blues performer at the Blues Music Awards for the last three years...

"...
Escape From The Chicken Coop proves that not only is Watermelon Slim a great blues artist, but he's a great song writer. There hasn't been a songwriter whose been able to capture the lives of Americans in quite the same way Slim does since Woody Guthrie stopped writing. While others may try and write these types of songs they just don't have the understanding or the life experience to do them justice. Like Woody before him, Slim has been down the same roads as the people he sings about, and he sings about them honestly and sincerely. Call this disc what you like, country, folk, or blues, but in the end its a collection of great songs and that's what really matters. "

-Richard Marcus
A Leap in the Dark
August, 2009 


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"If you like your music hard and fast with a slightly cheeky sense of humor, then Watermelon Slim's new album Escape From The Chicken Coop should be at the top of your music wish-list..

"...Country fans have good reason to celebrate, because
Escape From The Chicken Coop offers the outstanding outlaw country track Should Have Done More and the melodic, George Jones-style America's Wives But the best song on the entire album is the The Way I Am. This track deserves to be a major country radio chart hit.

"Watermelon Slim's
Escape From The Chicken Coop has a heartfelt, spoken-word track titled Friends On The Porch. Indeed, intimate moments like Friends On The Porch are what makes Watermelon Slim's new album so darn special. Escape From The Chicken Coop progresses like a phone call to a long lost friend which offers both funny and sentimental stories about life's highs and lows. Thankfully, we're all invited to eavesdrop on this most remarkable conversation."

-CountryChart.com
August, 2009 


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"Watermelon Slim’s music career has been genuinely meteoric. Despite a late start, within a few short years he released three wildly successful (in blues terms) discs, captured numerous awards, and established an enviable reputation for scorching live shows with The Workers, his hard-touring, road-tested crew.

"So what to do next? Slim, whose moniker comes from real life – he really did drive a watermelon truck – made his way to Nashville to record a country album, working this time out with hired guns and collaborating with go-to-guy Gary Nicholson, a songwriter and guitarist who’s played a significant role in Delbert McClinton’s success over the years...

"...Having taken the blues world by storm, Watermelon Slim seems poised to make an equally strong mark in the world of country.
Escape From The Chicken Coop should appeal to fans of both genres – and if a bit of cross-pollinating results in new fans on either side of the road, so much the better ...!"

-John Taylor
Blogcritics.org
August, 2009 


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Country music is white man’s blues, goes the saying — an aphorism that comes to life on Watermelon Slim’s new album. They’re calling this his 'Nashville album,' but Slim won’t be jamming with Keith Urban or dueting with Taylor Swift at the CMAs. (Thank God.) Escape From the Chicken Coop finds the singer and slide guitarist revisiting the country of the Seventies, before the homogenization of the Garth Ages. The sound owes as much to Lynyrd Skynyrd as to Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Jr., Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings.

The 13-track set opens with
Caterpillar Whine, Slim’s Southern-rock trucker’s anthem. Inspired by the Yoda of truck songs, Dave Dudley (as well as Junior Brown), Slim drives that theme through the final four songs: It’s Never Too Hard To Be Humble, 300 Miles, Truck Drivin’ Songs, and 18, 18 Wheeler. In between, he dips way back to Roy Acuff for the acoustic Wreck On the Highway and covers Haggard’s The Way I Am (Slim changes Hag’s line about his fishing float — I can almost see that bobber dancin’ — to I can almost see that barroom dancin’). Slim might not fish much, but he tells us what he does like on Skinny Women and Fat Cigars and covers Moe Bandy’s Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life. There’s spoken word in Friends On the Porch, and there’s a tribute to America’s Wives. Slim even does a mainstream country duet with Jenny Littleton on the happy love song You See Me Like I See You — a departure for the typically dour Slim.

Nashville allies include keyboardist Kevin McKendree and guitarist Rob McNelley from Delbert McClinton’s band, as well as frequent McClinton co-writer Gary Nicholson, who has written R&B songs into country hits (Patty Loveless’
The Trouble With the Truth) and turned country songs into R&B classics (Arthur Alexander’s If It’s Really Got To Be This Way). The band features two of Nashville’s most versatile session men: steel-guitar genius Paul Franklin and, fresh from backing Robert Plant & Alison Krauss and Elvis Costello, fiddler Stuart Duncan. Those musicians dial up the twang, but just as Slim’s blues albums are country enough for Americana fans, Chicken Coop is bluesy enough not to alienate his existing audience."

-Larry Nager
Blues Revue
August, 2009 

 
   

"There is truly no other artist that I look forward to listening to their newest CD's more than Watermelon Slim. From his debut self-titled blues release to his newest release, Escape From The Chicken Coop, his voice, his music, and his lyrics have thoroughly captivated me.

"With
Escape From The Chicken Coop, Watermelon tilts his steering wheel slightly towards a country style, paying homage to the truck driver and the truck driving lifestyle, and doing so with an ease you would only have expected from a seasoned country singer.

"Being a huge fan of Watermelon Slim's style of blues, I was a little concerned as to how he would come across in the more country feel
Escape From The Chicken Coop. I of course should have known better, because his slight departure from blues to lightly country, seems as natural as the dew found on blades of grass on a summer morning. In fact I don't believe that there is any performer out there today that could of pulled off what Watermelon did, as seamlessly as he did.

"Fans of Watermelon Slim will not be running away because of his slight departure, in fact, after listening to
Escape From The Chicken Coop, they will be actually running towards him and bringing more fans with them.

"I give this CD, my highest rating, Five *****
Excellent CD... Thoroughly enjoyed it... Highly Recommended..."

-John Vermilyea
Blues Underground Network
August, 2009 

 
   

"Here comes Watermelon Slim, the walking, talking stalk of Americana who has in the past done wry and rugged blues music, but has turned country, producing a non-hokey, Nashville-made ode to truck drivers.

"Slim’s latest album is an ode to the road, with a lot of country, a little boogie and workingman themes.

"Know that this absorbing Okie bluesman, born William Homans six decades ago, is no passenger – he's a wheel-gripping guy who for years made his living following those broken white lines, passing his time writing songs and singing to himself as he drove. He's a vivid character and a Vietnam veteran whose first album was the war-protesting Merry Airbrakes in 1973. All that to say Slim's going 'good-buddy' on us now is not such a departure.

"So, he's traded in his regular blues band, the Workers, for the citizens' band: At the end of Caterpillar Whine, which is more David Wilcox boogie than it is cowboy music, Slim signs off with some blacktop vernacular – “hammer down” and “smokey bear on your 264,” and whatnot.

"There are out-and-out highway songs –
300 Miles is a sad waltz concerning life's long hauls, and 18,18 Wheeler is a fiddle-happy heel-kicker about universality – but what Slim addresses are the same workingman themes he sang about on his three previous blues albums, all issued on Canada's vibrant Northern Blues label. The album's title refers to the freedom that comes with a life lived on the roam.

"The former melon farmer may be a smarty-pants MENSA member, but he's a man of simple tastes: Sweet tea, country ham and companionship blessed with 'just enough to hold on to, but not enough to get in the way' are the things he favours on the jaunty
Skinny Women and Fat Cigars.

"On the happy duet of
You See Me Like I See You, Slim shares sweet lines about older couples and enduring relationships with the chipper Jenny Littleton, who has the pure pipes – I said pipes – of Dolly Parton.

"Slim's own singing is better than ever; the twangs and tempos suit him. He's in low register on Roy Acuff's poignant ballad
Wreck on the Highway, and on that song and others, he handles his own harmony vocals.

"The road, the melon man believes, goes on forever. '
I'm one good reason that truck drivin' songs ain't ever goin' out of style,' he self-assuredly sings. I believe him, and will go one further: The entertaining Slim (and Dave Dudley's version of Six Days on the Road and Lowell George's Willin' ) are the reasons truck-driving music will outlast truck driving, if that day ever comes. Now, can I get a ten-four on that? "

-Brad Wheeler
Globe and Mail
August, 2009 

 
   

"Trying to figure out Bill Homens is like trying to catch water with your hands. Homens, a.k.a. 'Watermelon Slim' is a Vietnam vet with a long history of blue collar jobs, including much time as a truck driver. He's also the son of a prominent Boston civil rights attorney and holder of three college degrees. He hasn't avoided his truck driving past on previous albums, but on Chicken Coop, Slim uses a honky tonk backdrop as he drives full boar into life on the highway. Blues purists may quibble that some of the cuts are straight up country, but there's no quibbling that on Escape From the Chicken Coop, Watermelon Slim has found his musical voice."

-Jon Norton
GLT 89.1, Illinois State University
August, 2009 

 
   

"Escape from the Chicken Coop is a departure of sorts for Watermelon Slim (Bill Homans), with Slim working with musicians outside of his band, the Workers, and taking a more country direction, although that doesn't mean he's become a hat act and is spewing clever clichés over slick production with an eye on Nashville. An album of truck driving songs (it's dedicated to Dave Dudley, whose version of Six Days on the Road is the truck driving anthem of all time), Escape from the Chicken Coop isn't really all that different than Slim's previous albums, and while the blues elements may be muted a bit here, this set isn't a radical departure in form. Maybe that's because, at the root, the difference between blues and country is really a matter of approach -- the themes in both genres have always been basically the same. And Slim knows a thing or two about truck driving. He supported his family for years driving trucks -- as a card-carrying MENSA member, he had to be one of the smartest drivers out there on the road -- and he would write and sing songs to himself to pass the time on long hauls. So the songs collected here aren't some fancy imagined facsimiles of the truck driving musical genre, they're the real deal. That said, these sides still have that wonderfully loose, ragged, and wry blues feel that Slim has always done so well, and Escape from the Chicken Coop fits right in with his previous recorded work -- it isn't a departure so much as a refinement. Among the highlights here are the gorgeous Should I Have Done More, the traditional-sounding 300 Miles, and a striking re-imagining of Roy Acuff's classic Wreck on the Highway. Slim's many fans won't be disappointed by this release. It's still a blues album, really, at least the way Slim marks out the territory. It's also affirming, joyous, and appropriately somber by turns, giving a fresh new meaning to the term 'country blues.'"

-Steve Leggett
Allmusic Guide
August, 2009 

 
   

"Slim wanted to make a country rekkid. From the opening track, you might not think he’s doing it here, but after he settles down, this sounds country like Kinky Friedman sounds country. Slim tries real hard to play it straight, but this is only straight if you consider how left of center he is in the first place. Whether he’s blues or country or whatever, he’s still raw and real, working with a well honed knife that cuts right to the bone as well as right to the chase. If you’re already on board, this diversion from his main calling won’t throw you in the least. Hot stuff that never bothers to come in from left field and does a mighty job of holding it’s own."

-Midwest Record Review
August, 2009 

 
   

"One thing needs to be made perfectly clear right away. There just isn't anyone out there right now quite like Watermelon Slim. He doesn't act like other humans, and he sure doesn't sing like them. There is a backwoods aura to the man's voice that sounds like he grew up making moonshine, and spent a few years outrunning the law before getting caught and spending some time as a guest of the state. There are miles and miles of experience on Watermelon Slim's soul, and you can hear it in every word he sings. In real life, the Vietnam vet also drove commercial rigs across the country and has a bona fide understanding of what it's like to be southbound and down. After three burning blues albums, Escape From The Chicken Coop switches gears a bit and heads for the country corner, though it's such a tongue and groove fit with the blues there's no need to pitch pennies on what to call this music. What it is is a slice of American reality that captures what life is like outside the media glare of big cities, instead sharing the feel of big dance halls located on the edge of town where people go on Saturday night to drink, dance and do their damnedest to forget the pressures of life. Roy Acuff's Wreck of the Highway shows the heart of where Watermelon Slim is heading, with originals like America's Wives, Hank Williams You Wrote My Life and 18, 18 Wheeler demonstrating where he's been. The next time the polish of modern music has you reaching for the eject button, consider these songs as an alluring alternative. They may not make the charts or get talked about on television, but out where the working class live, Watermelon Slim will be tearing up the highway and smiling all the way to the barroom."

-Bentley's Bandstand
Sonic Boomers
July, 2009