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The most modern of blues

The Wolf That House Built
The Wolf That House Built
By Little Axe

Okey / Epic Records: 1995

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This review first appeared in the June 30, 1995 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

Skip "Little Axe" McDonald's brand of psychedelic blues can take some getting used to – but once you give it a chance, good lucking getting it out of your head. This is a sophisticated, literary vision of the blues that still speaks straight to the soul.

There is no other artist to whom Little Axe might be compared to provide musical bearings. The best analogy would be to acid jazz acts like Us3. On "Wolf Story," for instance, Little Axe samples vocals from Son House and Howlin' Wolf and lays them atop a hip hop backbeat, with some outstanding guitar licks and original vocals thrown in. It's a funky, hip melding of tradition and contemporary sounds that brings the blues fully into the present without sacrificing anything along the way.

The rest of the album similarly blends traditional blues with modern techniques and structures, all with a heavy dreaminess to give the album a very surreal feeling. But at heart, Little Axe's music is the blues – now matter how modern.