Harris is a beautiful contradiction, and it shows in every aspect of this album. Beginning with the title, Fish Ain't Bitin', a bad-luck expression from a man who's had almost nothing but good luck (at least career-wise) lately. Then there's the first few bars of the first song, High Fever Blues . It begins with a sparsely plucked guitar, which is suddenly answered by a melancholy blast from a horn section that seems to have wandered over from a street parade in Harris' current home, New Orleans. Forget authenticity; Harris is going for a sound true to himself. To top it off, the high fever Harris sings about with such conviction and desperation is the chicken pox. "You know that high fever makes a rich man poor," he sings with a mix of humor and earnestness on spending a workday in the sick bed.
This kind of unpredictability continues throughout the album. Though some listeners peg Harris as a Delta blues purist playing like he's a contemporary of Robert Johnson or Son House, it's too easy an explanation for an album with roots this complex. That's not to say that Harris isn't a believer in tradition. He is staunchly so, especially when those traditions have to do with family, the blues, reggae, Africa, education or hundreds of other things. But he's only interested in tradition insofar as it enables him to put the present into focus. That may explain songs like the police corruption lament 5-O Blues , which mixes contemporary slang with a guitar-picking style at least 70 years old. Yet this album is not a hybrid in any self-conscious way. The percussion may vary from Harris' stolid foot-tapping to the deep-barreled rhythms of the djun-djun, a Malian bass drum. But, considering Harris' wide range of interests, the sound is remarkably consistent and unforced.
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