Music Reviews

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Best of the Bizarre Sessions: 1990-1994

Manifesto

My Screamin’ Jay Hawkins experience is limited to a couple of TV appearances and this album. So don’t expect me to give you a historical perspective; expect the head-scratching wonderment of witnessing a spooky tall black man rise out of a coffin with a bone through his nose and a skull in his hand.

Screamin’ Jay made a name for himself not just by playing the blues, but through his persona, a combination of voodoo high priest, carnival barker, and demonic Little Richard. This record documents a set of sessions from Hawkins’ stint on Bizarre/Straight records, prior to his death. In between his renditions of “Ice Cream Man,” Tom Waits’ “Heart Attack and Vine” and “Ol’ Man River” are songs like “Ignant and Shit” (probably one of the more stomach-turning songs I’ve heard in a while), “Fourteen Wives” and “Stone Crazy,” all featuring Hawkins’ wild howl and unquestionably bizarre sense of humor. The band behind him is more than capable, but often they sound respectful (or cowed) enough to let Hawkins do his thing. I’d hardly call this rootsy, or influential (not at this late point in his career) – but it’s still a lot of fun.

Manifesto Records, 740 North La Brea Ave, 2nd Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90038-3339; http://www.manifesto.com


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