Graham Reid | | <1 min read
Little Axe is guitarist/singer Skip McDonald who first came to attention as a member of the Sugar Hill Gang, the house band for Sugar Hill Records which released such classic rap tracks as Grandmaster Flash's The Message.
McDonald went to England and joined Adrian Sherwood's On-U Sound crew and was a member of the innovative Tackhead which threw blues, dub, reggae and hip-hop into the cauldron. His albums under the Little Axe name have been very blues-based and on this exceptional album (with Tackhead's Doug Wimbush and Keith LeBlanc again in the line-up) McDonald offers his take on menacing rural blues, draws on the gospel and work-song traditions, and keeps old soul close to his heart.
The result is an album which is deeply spiritual and ancient-sounding, but also comes off as contemporary as they pull in dub echoes and urban beats. McDonald uses material by Allen Toussaint and Blind Willie Johnson, but also nods to war and the dollar in If I Had My Way which is as contemporary as tonight's news.
This is persuasive 21st century blues which dips into the past but finds its own voice rather than trying to simply recreate the music of old.