Chris Gill, Between Midnight and Louise, Endless Blues Records
Chris Gill who hails from Jackson, Mississippi is a guitarist, singer, and songwriter whose original songs are a mix of juke joint boogie and Piedmont style finger picking.
Influenced by Taj Mahal, Mississippi John Hurt, Rev. Gary Davis, Elizabeth Cotten and Lightnin Hopkins, Gill has shared stages with the likes of Michael Burks, Cedric Burnside, Taj Mahal and Bernard Allison. With his high energy band, the Sole Shakers, Gill plays a heady mixture of soul, funk, jazz, reggae, blues and New Orleans funk.
Between Midnight and Louise sees Gill back to the roots of the blues in a solo effort that is pared back, just Gill, two microphones, a small amp, and a range of acoustic guitars.
He’s been playing acoustic blues for many years, having sat on Jack Owens’s porch listening to Bentonia blues and learning from Jack and Bud Spiers. He still spends time hanging out and jamming with Jimmy “Duck” Holmes at the Blue Front Café.
I was immediately drawn in by the fine finger picking on the first of eleven tracks, Thank You For Another Day. I kept waiting for the vocals, but was pleasantly surprised when the song morphed into a gentle ragtime form and it became clear it was an instrumental. Instrumentals, for me, don’t often work on albums, but this was a delight. It’s a tribute to Gill’s grandfather and a fine one at that.
The resonator makes a welcome appearance on the next track, Song for Honeyboy, and we get to hear Gill’s vocals, dripping with Southern drawl. The song was written after he’d read Honeyboy Edwards’ autobiography, The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing. (really worth reading, by the way.)
Gill bemoans the state of the world in the next song, Back to Paradise, where he longs for a bit of heaven to help us “open up our hearts.” The gently picked You Never Know follows. It’s world weary and kinda restful, and you become aware of the variety of moods and emotions Gill is able to conjure up with his guitar chops and voice.
There’s humour too, in Fleas and Ticks, where you “can’t hide in the Delta” from the summertime bugs. I’d love to see this man perform these songs live – it’d be a great evening’s entertainment.
Souvenir of the Blues is a slow blues with some gut-wrenching electric slide just easing it along. Gill’s vocals, adeptly phrased and using some nice dynamics, give this a considerable amount of atmosphere.
I enjoyed I Fell In Love With the Blues, a slice of autobiography from Virgil Brawley and a paean to the blues, with some very cool guitar licks.
The penultimate Walking Through Eden is an intriguing song, also by Brawley. Although ostensibly about the town of Eden, Mississippi, Gill sings about seeing “three crosses,” feeling a “heavy burden,” and then falling on his knees to weep. He concludes that “you can run from them crosses but you just can’t hide.” Quite what is going on here is unclear, but it’s another fine song in this collection of thirteen originals.
The title track is the closing one, another excellent instrumental, again with some cool slide guitar.
Between Midnight and Louise is one of the best acoustic blues albums you’ll hear all year. The album is a joy – although it’s unmistakably the blues, there’s a sense of hope and joy throughout. Gill says that “Bud Spiers taught me, no matter what, life is a joy! He was poor, didn’t have much, blind and always laughing!”
Gill says that he “loves the healing power of music.” He’s done his bit, with Midnight and Louise to calm our spirits, salve our souls and add a little light to the darkness.