Watermelon Slim (William Homans) has been a frequent visitor here, especially as he was signed to Fred Litwin’s Ottawa-based NorthernBlues label. In fact, he was the label’s last remaining artist as the company wound down (all his CDs remain available, however). We clearly had an impact on him as this new disc was recorded in Winnipeg, with local players and produced by poet/singer/songwriter Scott Nolan.

In recent years he has lived in Clarksdale MS and recorded with Super Chikan and Atikokan’s Sunday Wilde. The album opens with the rousing “Pickup My Guidon”, a song that establishes a theme for the album in that he intends to keep on pushing to help the downtrodden and the poor, a guidon being a type of battle flag. “You’re Going To Need Somebody On Your Bond” is solo Slim, recorded in Clarksdale and a fine version it is too.

An explanation for his rebelling against authority might be in “WBCN”, a tirade about an incident in his youth and its subsequent description in the media. He has also picked up on the recent initiatives to help indigenous peoples with a song called “Wolf Cry”, featuring native drums and calls with a lyric that emphasizes that their view of earth is very much preferable to what we’re doing to it. He did a superb “Northwest Passage” on Bull Goose Rooster and does an equally superb version of “Barrett’s Privateers” here, with Nathan Rogers in the chorus. He calls it the second Canadian national anthem. The excellent “Mean Streets” is his stirring blues tribute to the homeless with Big Dave McLean on harp. “Northern Blues” is not about his former record company but a complaint about our harsh winters(!) – just Slim & his National. Scott Nolan supplied a very fine “Cabbagetown”, a tuneful folk song that’ll have you thinking that Slim was born here and not in Oklahoma. The ballad “Winners Of Us All” is perhaps the most explicit statement here of his support for the working class.

The concluding “Dark Genius” is an ambitious work about two world leaders who turn out to be very complicated people. In the last verse, he puts himself in that category, fighting to the end for what’s right. The CD title comes from Shakespeare’s Cymbeline: “Golden boys and girls must as chimney sweeps come to dust”. The Winnipeg crew deserves kudos: Joanna Miller, drums; Gilles Fournier, double bass; Jay Nowicki, guitar and Jeremy Rusu, clarinet, accordion & mandolin. The CD is only available as a French import at the moment, maybe that will change. His web site, www.watermelonslim.com, shows he’s in Europe this month and back in the US after that, not here.