The blues runs deep in Houston, just like it does in the rest of Texas and the South. You may know that Lightnin' Hopkins was from Houston, but not that Navasota's Mance Lipscomb recorded his masterpiece Trouble In Mind right here as well. I grew up on a steady diet of Delta blues and country tunes, and Lipscomb has always been my reference point for what makes for great Southern blues.
If you want to take that a step further, look to the bluesmen who functioned as one-man bands, most notably the early career of Jimmy Reed. These artists are on a whole different level, playing guitar and drums at the same time while singing those dirty tunes from someplace down deeper than the devil. Houston's D. Kosmo comes from the exact same place on his debut record, Honeymoon. He seems to channel a mix of the devil and Howlin' Wolf without really lifting from anyone. Full of tunes straight from the real "Dirty South," Honeymoon takes the blues right back to that raunchy analog sound of so many years ago.
Opening with audio from what sounds like a televised preacher on "Baseball Bat," Kosmo wastes no time. His mixture of fuzzy guitar and growling vocals keep up a pace closest to King Khan & BBQ Show mixed with Howlin' Wolf. There's no polish here; Kosmo keeps the blues the way they were meant to be heard, raw and without any studio trickery. The beginning of "End of the Road" comes on like a freight train, literally, before Kosmo comes in with a dark stride and traditional blues structure. The lo-fi quality, occasional kazoo solos, and hollowbody guitar craft a sound that reminds you of what you want blues music to sound like. "Down In the Ground" opens with an audio clip of an old field hymn before the howl of Kosmo's guitar comes sliding in. There's no mistaking the influences in his sound, though the lack of studio refinement only adds to the allure of the moments when the guitar sounds like it's being played through an amplifier with a blown speaker.
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On "Aah Ow," he approximates a '60s garage-rock sound, although the artists those guys were attempting to emulate are the same ones that Kosmo has been influenced by. The workin' man's laments, guttural guitar notes, and foot-stompin' beat are only intensified with a kazoo solo and vocals that sound like they're flowing from a throat full of ash and soot. The one-two punch of "Wad of Paper" recalls The Cramps, and "Love My Baby" the solo work of Mark Sultan. The sounds are all here, and the delivery is spot-on. There's no mistaking that this sound, with all its immediacy, is the blues as it was meant to be heard. Gone are all the luxuries of technology, and all you're left with is raw emotion. The tongue-in-cheek throwback isn't lost on Kosmo either, as closing track "Eddie Munster" mingles elements of Carl Perkins and The Trashmen without really copying either.
Honeymoon is how you should like your blues music to sound — down, dirty, and full of pain. By utilizing the genre's familiar elements in his own way, D. Kosmo invokes a time when musicians had only themselves to rely on, without a real budget or maybe even the tools to go further than a live performance set to tape. You can stream Honeymoon in all of the usual places, or you can catch the man in person when he opens for the legendary Bob Log III next Thursday, October 5, at Walter's Downtown. The all-ages show also has a performance from The Cowboys. Doors at 8 p.m.; $10 cover.