By James Calemine
Clyde Langford learned guitar from Texas blues great Sam “Lightning” Hopkins’ older brother Joe “Thunder” Hopkins. Born in Centralville, Texas, Langford worked in cotton fields, joined the Army, and dug wells for a living, but never stopped playing music. High Steppin’ Mama, a hypnotic field recording, serves as another classic volume in the growing Music Maker collection.
Due to severe arthritis from years of well digging, Langford does not travel far from home. Since he declines most of Music Maker’s offers to play festivals, High Steppin’ Mama remains the only source to hear Langford’s music.
These 14 songs contain a depth that becomes clearer with each listen. No other musician, other than Langford appears on High Steppin’ Mama. The lazy, shuffling title track commences the disc. “Tore Up” epitomizes Langford’s signature sound—a Gibson acoustic accompanied by only his smooth Texas voice.
“Like poison ivy/I’m gonna break out all over you” appear as lyrics in the next tune, “Poison Ivy”. “Crazy About You’ tells a talking blues story that resembles music played on an old 78. A timeless quality lingers in these songs. Langford once told a reporter, “The blues came out of nowhere. It just got picked up. It’s solid and it’s not solid. It kind of created itself. It kind of accumulated. Blues has no end. It has a meaning if you can figure out what the meaning is. Once you figure out the meaning, it’s something you can’t explain. It’s like trying to reach out and catch air. It’s there. We know it’s there. But where is it? We can’t catch it and hold it.”
The stark quality of these songs conjure sonic images of an old bluesman sitting on a rotting front porch in 1904 or 2004. “Just A Little Bit” stands as a classic example of Langford’s sultry, low-bottom acoustic sound. The final song on the album, “Things I Used To Do”, tells the timeless tale of a man relinquishing old acts of his past for a sanctified future.