Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Alvin Youngblood Hart

  • Big Mama's Door [Okeh/550 Music, 1996] *
  • Territory [Rykodisc, 1998] A-
  • Start With the Soul [Hannibal, 2000] **
  • Down in the Alley [Memphis International, 2002] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Big Mama's Door [Okeh/550 Music, 1996]
like Taj Mahal up and rose from the dead--only Taj is still alive ("When I Was a Cowboy [Western Plain]," "That Kate Adams Jive") *

Territory [Rykodisc, 1998]
An audacious turf grab in a year when Lucinda Williams is doing for the blues she loves what Billy Bragg and Wilco are doing for the Woody Guthrie they love--reconstituting them for a greater good that may also be self-discovery or self-aggrandizement only who cares? After asserting its intentions with a Western swing original perfectly suited to Hart's keen blues tenor, it mixes landmarks like "John Hardy" and "Mama Don't Allow" with a ska original, a Beefheart instrumental, Ruth Etting's (and also X's) "Dancing With Tears in My Eyes," and the harrowing tale of "two mixed-blood brothers" who got lynched in 1886 pursuing an assault case they were right about--its guitar accompaniment blues-based, all right, but only because the Grateful Dead are too. If it doesn't flow like Williams or Bragg & Wilco, well, there's nothing gracious or integrated about Hart's claim, which is that when you start with country blues all of American pop is your territory. Conceptually, it's uncompromising; musically, it can only hit home piece by piece. A-

Start With the Soul [Hannibal, 2000]
First acoustic bluesman to cover the Cornelius Brothers and Black Oak Arkansas, but probably not the first garage rocker ("Fightin' Hard," "Manos Arriba"). **

Down in the Alley [Memphis International, 2002] Dud

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