Moby must have been a genius back in '99, breathing new technofied life into the musical fossil of country/blues with his Play album. Or not—because Little Axe dredge up a saucy blues/electronic sound all their own, and they've been doing it longer, too. It's Skip McDonald, who played on many original hip-hop hits as the guitarist in Sugar Hill Records' house band, and Adrian Sherwood, a producer for Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, who first mixed the two genres in 1994 on Little Axe's debut, The Wolf That House Built—and no one, including Moby, noticed (in all fairness, Moby said he never heard of Little Axe when I interviewed him three years ago, and I believed him). McDonald and Sherwood didn't waste their time grousing about Moby's success, though, and instead made another great album where they resurrect the blues with a foreign agent; this time, a massive injection of highly spooky, mind-expanding dub reggae. The dub doesn't allow for any undeniable pop hooks la Moby, but it does something perhaps equally important: it brings to life the hopes, the grief and the grinding dread felt by the people who created the blues, weaving a vivid dream with samples of such songs as Junior Kimbrough's "All Night Long," ancient radio sermons and snippets of interviews about blues history. McDonald's original guitar work, keyboards and vocals merely open the door to the emotions of this distant era. On the whole, Little Axe is truly inspired in the way they re-imagine these sounds that changed American music.
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