|The expression “Soul Food” gained popular notoriety in the 1960s, with its roots in African American and Native American culture dating back to the colonial period. The phrase has grown beyond a reference to traditional foods and has become synonymous with music, art, fashion, dance, and all aspects of African American culture. Kansas City singer-songwriter, guitarist and ordained minister, Jimmie Bratcher was surely inspired by this legacy during the creation of his latest project simply titled “I’m Hungry.” With the help of his wife, Sherri, he has created a cookbook of nearly 200 recipes gathered from some of the world’s finest chefs and friends and family with an accompanying album of culinary inspired tunes. Bratcher earned the moniker, “The Electric Rev,” by delivering inspirational live performances and writing compelling material, which pairs the musical language of the blues with spiritual messages for decades. For his 12th album Bratcher gathered several musical friends in Kansas City and Nashville to record 10 original tracks and two inspired cover songs to round out this unique project. The music ranges from barrelhouse boogie to straight-ahead blues, roots rock and soul, mixed to enhance and inspire the downhome recipes, creating an entertaining and irreverent collection.
While the songs on the album don’t reference any specific recipes, beyond the reference to fried chicken, they do speak of many of the ingredients and the joy of cooking. The opening track ‘I Love Her Name,’ spells out that affection with words that could’ve been in a kid’s playground song, but here are driven by barrelhouse piano from John Selle, setting the table for the delectable delights to come. Bratcher then plays the role of a man tormented by being denied his pleasure upon doctor’s orders for the loping shuffle ‘Mama Won’t Fry No Chicken.’ Every good cook knows that the aroma of food is central to the presentation, so on ‘Bacon Is On My Mind,’ Bratcher uses a bump and grind 12-bar blues to pontificate about one of the world’s most powerful olfactory senses. The double entendre is thick, and the schmaltz is deep on the jazzy pop ballad ‘Baby I Like What You’re Cooking,’ with sublime guitar work. An entire album could have been recorded of cover songs written about food, thus giving importance to the first of two Bratcher selected. The Keb’ Mo’ tune, ‘Government Cheese,’ is a straightforward funky blues that has a subtle socio-political message behind it, reflective of the struggles many people are facing today.
Anyone who’s been to Kansas City knows that it is the home of great music and great barbecue. Bratcher takes us on a tour of the KC hotspots during the driving blues ‘Where You Gonna Stop,’ name checking his favorite joints. The instrumental track sitting in the middle of the album is perfectly named ‘Greasy,’ with this southern fried funk groove that sets up tasty guitar licks. He then uses a spicy rhumba to extol the virtues and faults of poultry during ‘Chicken Tastes The Same.’ The second line anthem ‘Green Bananas,’ from his 2008 album “The Electric Rev” gets a remix adding spoken word backstory to the ‘carpe diem’ aphorism. The crew then takes a little liberty by framing Little Milton‘s 1969 Stax Soul classic ‘Grits Ain’t Groceries,’ as a Texas shuffle that allows Bratcher to stretch out on a sizzling guitar lead.
Reprising another selection from his discography the fun-loving country blues, ‘Bologna Sandwich Man,’ from his album “Secretly Famous,” reveals the secret foodie passion that has been brewing for years. The credits roll for the project over the final track ‘Happy,’ a stellar progressive blues instrumental in the style of Robben Ford or Larry Carlton that showcases stellar performances from the rhythm section and hot guitar playing from Bratcher.
Rick J Bowen
Bratcher’s passion for raw-but-exacting electric guitar sounds began in the ’60s, when he fell under the spell of Eric Clapton, his first six-string hero. As a kid Bratcher developed eclectic taste, culled from his large musical family, who would have sprawling jam sessions at frequent get-togethers in his native Kansas City. “I was the guy, who owned both Hendrix’s “Axis: Bold As Love” and Johnny Cash’s ‘At Folsom Prison,’” he attests. Bratcher caught on to Albert King, B.B. King, and more blues greats, and developed as a player in a series of bands that never quite took off “due to a lack of professionalism and commitment, and substance abuse,” he explains. As Bratcher began gaining a toehold as a musician in his early 20s, drugs and alcohol also had their grips on him. They drove the destruction of his and Sherri’s first marriage. Nonetheless, he and Sherri reunited and when they decided to remarry, she took him to a small church where the preacher declared he would only perform the ceremony if Bratcher promised to put his faith in Jesus. Bratcher’s calling to the ministry came on the heels of that experience, but that job required that Bratcher put his electric guitar aside for 20 years.
In 1997 Bratcher’s son Jason got him a Fender Telecaster as a gift. Bratcher wrote an inspirational blues shuffle called ‘Can’t Get Over It’ that’s still part of his setlist. He began practicing again, but eschewed learning others’ licks in favor of developing his own brand of bare-knuckled virtuosity that embraces a picking style employing both a plectrum and fingers, and developing guitar sounds that blend growling tones and clearly articulated notes. Three years later, as his collection of original tunes grew, he transitioned out of the pastoral ministry and began his current traveling ministry. He took his electric guitar on the road.
In 2001 Bratcher made his debut album Honey In the Rock, which pairs the musical language of the blues with spiritual messages. “To this day I write in parables,” Bratcher observes. “I tell stories, but behind the stories there are messages that I want people to connect with, and the sound of the blues is so true and comfortable for people that it helps make that connection.” The transcendent qualities of the style were made clear to Bratcher in 2003, when a friend invited him to perform a concert of his electric-blues-based sanctified music at a church. “I thought my friend was crazy and that people would be upset, but they loved it,” Bratcher recalls. Today prison, church and bar performances are regularly part of The Electric Rev.’s performing schedule.
Inspired by the knowledge that his music could speak to all kinds of audiences, Bratcher made up for lost time as a musician. He has recorded twelve albums and two live DVDs, touring a mix of churches, clubs, and prisons — alternately preaching and performing, which both require interchangeable audience-grabbing abilities.