Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Kitchen Brothers - "Help Us Lord"

Sorry to be so lax in posting recently. It's been a busy couple of weeks, during which I got to the latest record fair in St. Louis. As usual, I made out very well, bringing home a large pile of records.

While I continue to sort through my take, I thought I'd post a record that I received a couple of months ago courtesy Red Kelly of the excellent Soul Detective blog (see the link on this page). I was fortunate enough to win his "name the singer" contest and received a package in the mail that included several 45's as a prize. What could be better than that? Anyway, I got a bunch of nice records, including one that especially intrigued me, "Help Us Lord" by the Kitchen Brothers.

When I wrote to Red and thanked him for sending the prizes, I mentioned how much I liked this record and asked if he knew anything about it. All he knew was that it was pretty much a homemade disc and it came out of Alabama. The internet is no help, without any information to be found.

What makes this record so interesting? Well, it's a variety of things. The first thing is the completely amateurish playing. "Help Us Lord" is taken at a slow tempo. In fact it's almost a dirge. The drums bang and sort of plod along. The guitar playing is utterly rudimentary and sounds out of tune. The singer is off key most of the time. It has an overall garagey feel, like some of those primitive 60's laments.

That leads to another point of interest. I'm not sure when the record was released but all clues point to the early 1970's. First, the record is stereo, not common until at least the late 60's and I'd think especially so on a custom pressing like this. Also, the lyrics seem to borrow from George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" ("really want to see you"). If that's the case, the record is from no earlier than late 1970. There are no songwriting credits, so I don't know if it's an original composition or not. The flipside is a version of "Daddy Sang Bass", written by Carl Perkins and recorded by Johnny Cash in 1968. Gotta give The Kitchen Brothers credit for making "Help Us Lord" the a-side, as it's infinitely superior.

All in all, it's was a pretty big surprise discovering something like "Help Us Lord", let alone that it might be a few years removed from the garage era. I have no idea who these guys were but a big kudos to them for making a record this good and this curious at the same time, a very unusual artifact indeed.

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