William Homans, aka Watermelon Slim, recorded Golden Boy last year in Winnipeg and released it on France’s Dixiefrog label. This new one has him once again on our NorthernBlues. A longtime resident of Clarksdale MS, Church of the Blues was apparently recorded back in his hometown of Norman, Oklahoma and what we get is his trio with lots of guests, primarily on lead guitar. Howlin’ Wolf once said that he rarely played guitar because he felt his style was too old fashioned, he had  Hubert Sumlin there to provide that more contemporary sound. Perhaps the same thinking is at work here. We do get a program of mostly modern blues songs plus some newly-arranged older ones. We start off with a remarkable new song by one Ron L. Meadors that is the first single: “St. Peter’s Ledger” is a barnburner of a song about being deeply in debt but hoping that his credit is still good at the Pearly Gate. Bob Margolin contributes some amazing slide guitar. A new version of Muddy’s “Gypsy Woman” is another highlight, with Margolin an obvious choice on guitar and he does not disappoint. “Post-Modern Blues” is a Slim original, a fine song lamenting his inability to stay up to date with technology with Nick Schnebelen guesting on lead guitar. A quite wonderful rendering of Allen Toussaint’s “Get Out of My Life Woman” features Sherman Holmes and John Németh, an all-star vocal trio if there ever was one. Another original is “Mni Wiconi – The Water Song” extending his very much up to date concerns about water usage along with his awareness of Indigenous traditions, Joe Louis Walker guests here. Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” gets a total makeover. “That Ole 1-4-5” is a delightful Slim original about the durability of traditional blues, a theme he picks up with Fred McDowell’s “61 Highway Blues”. McDowell may not recognize it but it is a matchless traditional performance and it didn’t need a guest guitarist. Slim didn’t even need his band for “Holler #4”, an a capella field holler dealing with some very contemporary issues – these hollers are a feature of his live sets and this one is another masterpiece. He’s up to date on his politics as well as his “Charlottesville (Blues for a Nation)” shows. Németh duets here and it’s a major highlight. John Allouise is on bass and Brian Wells on drums, there are keyboards and for the first time, a horn section – all of which makes for one of the best modern blues albums so far in this young year – Watermelon Slim continues to be a force to be reckoned with. Kudos to Michael Wrycraft for making Slim look so dapper in his best church-going clothes. His web site is www.watermelonslim.com and it shows no Canadian dates yet but his management says they’re working on it, he loves playing here.