Nat Meyers: Yellow Peril (Easy Eye Sound Distributed by Concord) – Album Review
Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Take a trip back to the Mississippi Delta circa 1900 with Nat Meyers. He is able to assimilate the essence of all those great country and delta blues artists such as Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, Furry Lewis, et. al. I mean he nails it like a carpenter fastening two pieces of wood. The music is so complete and so authentic you cannot discern which period of time you are in. The only clue is the recording quality, which is definitely modern. There are no pops, crackles, or warbles, which some may argue detracts from the authenticity, but I say nay. The impeccable recording quality of Yellow Peril only adds to the wonderful listening experience. Those extraneous noises in the old recordings make listening a challenge. Yellow Fever takes those obstacles away and you are left with pure 24 karat gold. No fillers or impurities.
Duck ‘N’ Dodge is a perfect example. This song is a time machine that transports me to Cairo, Mississippi. I’m standing on the river bank at Fort Defiance State Park, at the exact spot where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers intersect. The jug of wine in the paper sack just came by and I took a big swig. It’s the kind of wine that give ya’ the shivers, but it does what it has to do. I’m not sure if the wine is mixed with turpentine or linseed oil, but you pays your money and takes your chances. It’s right around dusk and the campfire smoke is pungent and rises high into the atmosphere. Nat is sitting on a stool strumming cords and picking the finest blues known to man. Everyone in attendance is drinking and nodding their heads, keeping perfect time with the music.
Like the bluesman that preceded him, Nat sings about heartache, cheating, hoppin’ trains, and racism. Yellow Peril poignantly describes the heartache and trauma associated with overt racism. Nat is Korean and has experienced more than his share of judgement and discrimination. Instead of allowing things outside his control to cripple him, he writes and sings about it. His account is so honest and raw that it is sometimes hard to listen to. The truth hurts, but with the truth comes awareness. And with awareness comes change:
“Everywhere I been somebody being abused
Never gonna win some of us are born to lose
Just wanna have a little fun before we die
There never ever was no difference tween you and I
Yellow peril, yellow peril, yellow peril, man
Yellow peril, yellow peril, yellow peril, man”
It’s impossible to think about delta and country blues without mentioning hopping a train. It was a way of life for troubadours and other disenfranchised men and women. Nat perfectly translates those feelings and the action of riding down the tracks in some rickety boxcar. All of the emotions are conjured up: fear, excitement, loneliness, and danger. 75-71 takes the listener on a journey riding the L&N or Yellow Dog line with the overwhelming sound of the steel train wheels hitting the tracks at 70 miles an hour and the smell of burning coal that permeates the air and leaves a burn in your eyes and lungs.
If you like your music packed with emotion and a sense of danger, Yellow Peril is right up your alley. This is not just a listening experience, it is definitely an adventure. Nat’s ability to transcend time and place and take the listener on a bumpy ride through parts of the country that are mainly overlooked is uncanny. If you want to experience life 100 years ago or you have the penchant to hop a train but don’t know how, listen to Yellow Peril. It is a very close substitute.