Heavy Trash – Midnight Soul Serenade

January 01, 1970

(Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum)




It’s heartbreaking to think that for a whole generation of
young music fans, Fat Possum Records will be better known for its current
roster of skinny, lilywhite indie rock nancy
boys like Wavves and Crocodiles than the hard livin’ bluesmen of the North Mississippi region who helped put the Oxford,
MS-based label on the map in the first place.


However, longtime Possum fans who remember the days of
Junior Kimbrough and Asie Payton were no doubt happy to learn that the label
has moved one crucial step closer to their blues roots with the signing of Jon
Spencer and his new band Heavy Trash to label co-head Bruce Watson’s subsidiary
imprint Big Legal Mess Records. Back in the 90s, Spencer helped bring the
struggling, perennially cash-strapped imprint to prominence through his close
association with Fat Possum’s onetime priority artist, Mr. R.L. Burnside. The
late, great R.L., who passed away in 2005, received a spike in popularity after
collaborating with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion on the 1996 garage blues
masterpiece A Ass Pocket of Whiskey and Burnside’s 1997 album Mr. Wizard,
thus inadvertently putting the Fat Possum name on the tips of many tongues in
the rock underground at the time.


These days, the label is experiencing more success than it
ever had in its 18 year history, thanks to the decision to sign a slew of
corn-fed crackers who have nervous breakdowns onstage and get assaulted by
their own fans.  Unfortunately, its
prosperity comes at the price of Fat Possum’s heritage. But this is why when word
got out that Heavy Trash signed to Big Legal Mess, there was reason to rejoice
because having Jon Spencer in the mix over there makes him the only known act
on the current label roster with direct ties to its blues-based past.  And on Midnight
Soul Serenade
, the Trash do their best to make good old R.L. and Junior
proud, crafting their most raucous and diverse collection yet.


The group’s third album overall, Serenade finds Spencer and former Madder Rose guitarist Matt
Verta-Ray making good on the promise of their first two releases on the Yep Roc
label with a diverse array of material that goes in several directions but
always finds its way back home in some form or another. This 11-track barnstorm
sees the duo blasting through vintage 50s rock (“Gee, I Really Love You”,
“Bedevilment”), Memphis soul (“In My Heart”) and Downtown NYC beat jazz (“The
Pill”).  Elsewhere, “Sweet Little Bird”
serves as an exercise in Louisiana
swamp blues that recalls Lonesome Sundown at his most sinister, while the
instrumental “Pimiento” is pure Tex-Mex surfabilly goodness that features some
of Verta-Ray’s finest guitar playing to date.  But in the end, the heaviest vibe comes from
the healthy dose of jukejoint blues that was once the Fat Possum calling card,
most explicitly during the group’s killer cover of LaVern Baker’s “Bumble


For those of us who might not be down with the likes of Digital
Leather, Turbo Fruits or any of these other hopelessly honky bands occupying
the release schedule, Midnight Soul
marks a long overdue return to the original Fat Possum flavor. By
combining the warm hum of Sun Studios’ analog gear with the mud of the
Mississippi Delta, Heavy Trash have created some the most genuine music to
emerge from this little record label since R.L. Burnside’s final album before
his death, 2004’s A Bothered Mind.  


By shacking up with Burnside in the mid-90s, Jon Spencer helped
keep Fat Possum Records out of financial ruin by introducing it to a whole
generation of young indie rockers who might not have gotten hip otherwise.  Now with Heavy Trash on the roster, it’s up
to him to rescue the now-thriving label from spiritual peril amidst the
cacophony of lo-fi hipster hi-jinks that may be keeping them in the financial
black, but is threatening to drown out the original heart of this otherwise
historic modern blues imprint for good.  Here’s hoping he sticks around long enough to
fight the good fight.


“Gee, I Really Love You”, “Bumble Bee”, “Sweet Little
Bird”, “In My Heart” RON HART


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