It’s no secret that some of the best music arises from the hardest times, especially when it comes to the blues. The young musician Reed Turchi has long been a student of the blues with an ear for the driving groove of the North Mississippi style. In the last year, Turchi took things in a different direction with his band the Caterwauls, leading the group of musicians down a promising experimental path of pop, funk, soul, and roots. Following the release of their debut album and some touring, the Caterwauls dissolved in the way the bands sometimes do. Other unfortunate circumstances along the way humbled Turchi and propelled him back to what he knows best. Before long, the musician found himself with an album on his hands that he has called Tallahatchie.
The songs on Tallahatchie are far from new. In fact, you could call them classics at this point. Here Turchi sticks to the North Mississippi Hill Country canon with his takes on tunes from RL Burnside, Fred McDowell, and Otha Turner. He presents them raw and simple, relying simply on his own vocal growl, slide, acoustic guitar, and a wooden chair on a wooden floor. Tallahatchie is indeed an album of covers, but you can feel a closeness to the material here on the part of Turchi, who manages to make each song feel like a personal expression. “Let It Roll” sets a quiet if not suspense-building tone before a subdued yet lively acoustic take on R.L. Burnside’s “Old Black Mattie”. “Like a Bird Without a Feather” haunts and meanders before the foot-stomping romp of “Long Haired Doney”, and “You Got To Move” feels like a delicate dance of bluesy slide guitar playing.
Turchi is hardly near the age of the people who wrote the songs he’s playing, but he proves to be an old soul in his picking style, which is both sharp and loose in songs like “Jumper On The Line” and his sinister take on “Goin’ Down South”. Turchi’s stripped down, somber take on these songs is not too far from the recent work of North Mississippi Allstars’ Luther Dickinson. But with Turchi we feel like we are sitting right there in some lonely cabin deep amongst the pines and the kudzu sipping whiskey and listening to him play his heart out.
There’s a feeling on Tallahatchie that the songs were recorded fast in a burst of musical inspiration. This has its ups and downs, and in this case Turchi definitely had something to get off his chest. Though the album does not mark a major departure from Turchi’s older work, it is nonetheless refreshing to hear an artist so honestly exorcising his demons by recording the blues music he loves.