Black Merda are one of those bands that don’t fit neatly into any bag… they are soul, but not only soul. They are blues, but not only blues. They are rock, but not only rock. Black Merda mixed up a whole lot of what was going on in late sixties and early seventies America; folk, funk, blues-rock, psychedelia, with a heavy dose of social reality. And the result is electrifying.
Guitarist brothers Anthony and Charles Hawkins, and bassist VC Veasey, started out in Mississippi; but moved north to Detroit. And with Tyrone Hite on drums, Black Merda was formed. They had previously played as the Soul Agents backing Edwin Starr. They took Southern country and blues and mixed it with the Detroit soul and rock scenes. They signed to Chess records in Chicago and released two albums.
This CD is a reissue of both their Chess albums: Black Merda and Long Burn the Fire. Yes they had soul, but these cats really had the blues too; unlike the relatively privaleged British musicians that had started the blues-rock explosion in the mid 1960s, this was the real deal. There is a lot of pain in the lyrics: women problems, riots, poverty, murder, the Viet Nam war. The song Thats the Way it Goes captures this entirely – painfully sad lyrics over a track that is blues-funk-soul with a wah-wah pedal lead guitar sobbing in the background.
Musically, there are elements of early Hendrix-styled guitar-lead psychedelia: Prophet, Cythy Ruth and the bluesey Over and Over.
Good Luck, I Got a Woman and Lying are pure psychedelic funk that could easily have been on any of Funkadelic’s first few Westbound albums. Driving rhythyms, distorted wah guitars and some great vocal harmonies.
Ashamed and I don’t Want to Die are the same style soul-rock Jimi Hendrix was doing when he did Impressions covers – but this has way better singing!.
There’s country folk-blues: Think of Me and Set Me Free, going through to soul: We Made Up, For You, and Reality.
Other stand out songs include Windsong, musically somewhere between Hendrix’s Vilaneuva Junction and Funkadelics Maggot Brain, though perhaps not quite as poignant as either. But one of the most poignant songs i’ve ever heard is My Mistake. I won’t ruin the plot, in case you buy the CD, but you have to hear the lyric on this one!
This is a great CD, and if you are a blues-rock, psychedelic-soul or a fan of 60s and 70s black music in general you should buy this, it’s definately worth checking out!