Whitehorse shuffles the deck with The Northern South Vol. 2. Second installment of JUNO Award‐nominated project deals 1950s blues bops, hellfire gospels and sexed‐up cuts.
Itches, urges, dirges and scourges: welcome back to The Northern South. Whitehorse makes their return to the early days of electric blues with the second installment of a project that melds original grooves and melodies with the duo’s steamy, swampy, squalling approach.
“Blues gave rock n roll its nerve. It breaks, bends and distorts rules. This sense of abandon, emotional and musical urgency trickled into all forms of modern day music,” offers Melissa McClelland, one‐half of the duo. “There would be no Cardi B without Lucille Hogan. There would be no Tom Waits without Howlin’ Wolf and there would be no Stones without any of it.”
Opener “Who’s Been Talkin'” (1957) is pure love and respect for Howlin’ Wolf and his right‐hand man, guitar hero Hubert Sumlin. With “Who’s Been Talkin,'” Whitehorse serves up a big juicy White Falcon slice, with melodica and Wurlitzer wound around the deft dance of the lyrics.
“The nuance of simultaneously accepting responsibility and accusing a lover of doing him wrong was very subtle,” says Doucet, “it’s rabbit‐hole of contrition.”
From there, Whitehorse gets loose and languid with a Jimmy Reed via JJ Cale take on “Baby What You Want Me To Do” (1959). With a few Gretsch squelches for good measure, Whitehorse’s tribute to Reed’s laid‐back minimalism and melody mastery moves along no faster than a Sunday morning.
An exercise in subtlety it is not, Whitehorse’s version on Slim Harpo’s “Baby, Scratch My Back” (1965) is a lap dance, unapologetically erotic, a red‐hot take on the stale ‘male wants it bad’ story. With McClelland on lead vocals upending the original dynamic, Whitehorse’s version is one of female desire and pleasure. Less girls gone wild, more sexual intellectual.
Next up is “I Just Wanna Make Love To You” (1954), a Willie Dixon original given a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion‐inspired treatment, McClelland’s idea. “It would be impossible to top Etta James’ steaming vocal, so I suggested we turn ourselves into a garage rock band, a little scrappier, punchier and live off the floor.”
From a turbulent, direful crackling rapture to a haunting, minor key requiem, The Northern South Vol. 2 goes further back in time with two traditional gospel blues selections, “John The Revelator” and “St. James Infirmary.” The latter features one of the EP’s highlights, a righteous noisescape outro from McClelland, played on Doucet’s Les Paul. “John the Revelator was an interesting song to delve into,” says McClelland. “We liked the intensity of the end of times bible story, but we wanted it to tell a more current, relevant tale. With some new words, we touch on the end of days issues that feel pressing to us: global warming, the Trump presidency, consumerism, and religion itself.”
Both snapshot and slingshot, The Northern South Vol. 2 cycles back and careens forward, taking a twelve‐bar trip through the chart‐toppers of the era.
“These aren’t deep cuts, they are the Top 40, the pop hits of the blues world, what was happening at the time,” explains Doucet of the song selection process.