Michael Packer’s 2013 I Am the Blues – My Story has been nominated for a 2015 Grammy Award in the category American Roots – Best Americana Album. This is no big surprise to this constant listener. Now there is a two disc 2014 release of I Am the Blues – My Story Volume 1&2 that brought me back to the realization not nearly enough people have heard this album.
When I first listened to this disc, I was reminded of Tom Russell’s groundbreaking album Hotwalker. An early reviewer compared it to Johnny Cash’s Personal File saying it is in many ways a blues equal to it. I’m always drawn to the songwriters who aren’t afraid to share the underside of their own illicit or otherwise life and times. Packer fearlessly shines light on his own underbelly and offers his very personal story with a running narrative between most of these songs. The songs are blues, jazz, rock and even pop inspired.
He tells of his history from his good family to the good times with his first band Papa Nebo, famous friends, the fall to addiction and landing in jail, then panhandling and homeless in New York City. The opening song “Mr. Packer” tells he “…has been down so long, everything is wrong, wrong, wrong.” Packer says his mother raised him well, but he was a bad kid with his father’s lowdown genes. His great “Uncle Al” chorus lyrics include; “They called him a murderer, cannibal and a thief.”
Packer’s original “Free Beer” Band is a legendary story of appearing on “The Hootenanny” TV show I didn’t know actually came from fact. We are a fly on the wall at his egged on drunken fight that ruffled the feathers of Bob Dylan and their subsequent proper meeting with an apology and explanation of the assault and Dylan’s sadly correct prophecy for his future in music. The “Love of a Woman” brought him down and out like so many before him. “Christmas on the Bowery” has become one of my personal holiday favorites the likes of Tom Waits’ “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis”. The hot talking blues “Doing Time At Rikers Island” is an earful of scared straight.
His story continued in I Am the Blues – My Story Volume Two, which is an unapologetic offering with no fuzzy focus smoke and mirrors to excuse his bad behavior or rough life and times. His redemption and finally his resurrection with Michael Packer Blues Band aka The Honey Boy Band because they toured so often with Honeyboy Edwards leaves us full of hope for his future, far from needing us to “See That His (My) Grave Is Kept Clean”.
Either of these albums offers his very real journey through music from addiction and hopelessness then back to the blues.
Michael Packer’s 2013 I Am the Blues – My Story & 2014 I Am the Blues – My Story Volume 1&2 are both self-released viaIris Music Group. Michael Packer Blues Band: http://www.michaelpackerbluesband.com/ Michael Packer Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michael.packer.90 Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Am-Blues-My-Story-Vol/dp/B00JUQJLGE
- Trish Lewis - Music Reviewer, Producer, Blogger & Host of The Eclectic Chair Podcast. http://radiochair.com/
16th November, 2023
7th November, 2023