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Bo Carter's Vegetables and Your Woman's Fruit Basket

Being a part of and subsequently the manager of the Mississippi Sheiks afforded Bo Carter (nee Chatom) a certain amount of notoriety before he set out on his own as a singer. But before striking out on his own, Carter took part in some extensive touring and recording with his family’s band. As a solo act, Carter went on to record well over one hundred sides with a good clutch of them being collected and repacked by the ever astute folks at Yazoo Records. The first volume, titled with some bawdy line plucked from one of Carter’s lyrics might sound risqué even today. But its companion Twist It Baby, while still maintaining a few off color couplets, seems more rooted in daily concerns of a blues man – or any man for that matter.

Of course, the ‘jellyroll’ references aren’t flying left and right here, but the places that Carter decides to discuss some of life’s more sloppy situations, finds his meaning not too obscured -which should only leave listeners wondering how this stuff got released. “Let Me Roll Your Lemon,” which sounds like a childlike contemplation on playing with fruits and the like, finds Carter begging some woman to do just as the title figures. Some apparently think that the woman’s juice is sour, but Carter assures his conquest that her juice is sweet enough for him – and he does in fact want to roll her lemon until that good juice comes. It’s pretty shocking stuff right here – and even if twenty some odd years later Nina Simone would let people know that she wanted some sugar in her bowl, the discussion of juices here is really one of the most ribald examples of a sexual blues lyric.

But as mentioned before, the vast majority of this disc is given over to concerns of every day life – even though your woman’s lemon should be tended. Songs like “Policy Blues” discuss hard luck and gambling, with Carter pretty descriptively explaining his approach to the table – as well as what he’d like to win. The only aspect of all of this that keeps Bo Carter’s work from being one of the more entertaining and or well known in the genre is the fact that his vocals and playing are easily matched elsewhere. As a solo act, it seems as if the guitarist would have done well to occasionally enlist an accompanist of some sort – guitarist, fiddle player or otherwise.

Carter isn’t the slightest singer, but he comes across as kinda flat in places – well on portions of pretty much every track. And while he’s without a doubt a decent finger picker, there aren’t too many portions of his work here that inspire awe. Twist It Baby isn’t sub par – and if nothing else serves as a book end to the career of the Mississippi Sheiks, but the disc certainly isn’t something you need to rush out and snag. With that being said, though, the sound here is really surprisingly good considering the vintage of the recordings.