Bob Homans, aka Watermelon Slim, has fought in one war (Vietnam) and fought against another (Iraq). He has degrees in history and journalism but mostly drives trucks for a living. A member of Mensa, he restored his blues cred by farming watermelons in his home state of Oklahoma – hence the stage-name.
His record debut was as obscure as can be. Merry Airbrakes, from 1973, claims to be the only known record by a Vietnam War vet during the war. Country Joe McDonald (who covered some of the songs) owned one of the few copies. Watermelon Slim’s career only started to pick up with 2003’s Big Shoes To Fill, gathered pace with Up Close & Personal (2004) and went overground with Watermelon Slim And The Workers in 2006. His music is hillbilly country blues straight out of Missisippi. He plays the guitar flat across his lap with a slide. Blue Freightliner, from Up Close, has the Bukka White sound down pat. The music gets more bent and rowdy with The Workers; Slim’s grouchiness seems to rise in proportion to the volume.
His perennial themes are work (the autobiographical Dumpster Blues), frustration (frequently, but not exclusively romantic) and mortality (following a near-fatal heart attack in 2002). Sometimes Slim can’t convey everything he wants to say in the blues vernacular. Bridgebuilder, again from Up Close, speculates about the origins of the human race to the gentle sound of an African thumb piano. What a dude.
by MIKE BUTLER – Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Wed, Academy 3, UMSU, Oxford Road, Central Manchester, 7.30pm, £12. Tel: 823 1111. www.watermelonslim.com