Germany’s boogie down blues trio The Juke Joint Pimps have finally dropped their new and much anticipated album on their home label Voodoo Rhythm Records. This time, giving a portion of the album over to their alter ego band, The Gospel Pimps, they offer up two very separate sound structures: one in the shape of a smoky, booze-drenched, blues-blasting juke joint; and the other in the shape of an old ramshackle church house in the Deep South full of hootin’ n’ hollerin’. One for sinners, the other for saints. One for reworking the old blues sounds into their own roots and rock’n’roll hybrid, just trashy enough, with plenty of driving beats, ass-shakin’ and finger-snappin’ rhythms, wicked guitar playing, wailing harmonica, and strong vocals; and one for rockin’ in the name of The Church of Blues, at the pulpit of which Reverend Mike preaches sermons on “blues power” over the unified vocalizations of a true gospel choir, during which he obsesses here and there about whether or not the afterlife is “a big juke joint in the sky” where the blues are played reverently around the clock. One built atop a foundation of dirty Chicago rhythm n’ blues and a take on the electric North Mississippi hill country style, and the other atop a foundation of raw salvation-seeking gospel and Texas revival tent evangelism, empowered just as much by the soulfulness of the blues as by the beat of its heart and the churn of its guts.
Clearly, worlds collide on this new release by The Juke Joint Pimps and The Gospel Pimps, Boogie the Church Down, but it’s a brilliant collision, and indeed one that listeners are rarely afforded with the records they collect. Boogie the Church Down is the two-piece blues outfit’s follow-up to their 2007 Voodoo Rhythm release, Boogie the House Down, equally inspired release, to be sure, but a bit more daring and ambitious when all is said and done. Now, The Juke Joint Pimps and The Gospel Pimps come in two very different guises. When performing as the former the duo wear ’50s style pin-striped suits or flashy silver getups circa 1970, and when performing as the latter they sport the same service robes as Roman Catholic priests. They even switch names for the projects: for The Juke Joint Pimps it is as it has been these past seven years, T-Man and Mighty Mike; and for the Gospel Pimps they become Deacon T and Reverend Mike. In The Juke Joint Pimps Mighty Mike plays drums, blues harp and sings, while T-Man works the strings of his guitar.
Boogie the Church Down features fourteen all-new original songs. Among the standouts are “Delta Trip,” “Boogie 65,” “Blues Power,” “Juke Joint in the Sky,” “Boogie the Church Down,” and “King Roland’s Prayer.” But take it from me, Boogie the Church Down is the type of rare album that is home to a number of exceptional songs, nearly all of them of equal quality, creating a remarkably satisfying listening experience.
About a year ago I listened to a couple of songs by The Juke Joint Pimps for the first time. They were the sample tracks from Boogie the House Down at the Voodoo Rhythm website. Though I was impressed with those songs, I wasn’t nearly as impressed as when I listened to The Juke Joint Pimps song chosen for the latest Voodoo Rhythm compilation release — a kickass version of the blues standard “Dust My Broom.” Of course, it is common knowledge that “Dust My Broom,” or “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” as it appears on some recordings, was originally written by Robert Johnson, though it has been argued that bluesman Elmore James may have written it first. Either way, the Pimps’ version is decidedly more like the one recorded by Elmore James than that of Johnson. That was the song that pushed me over the line of appreciating The Juke Joint Pimps to being one of their loyal fans, at any rate.
If like a good many other music enthusiasts you are into both blues and rock’n’roll, either separately or as fusion, you will no doubt be able to appreciate the The Juke Joint Pimps…and The Gospel Pimps, for that matter.