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I hate to say it, but should my woman ever up and leave me, I’m not going to listen to Howlin’ Wolf. As a middle-class white kid, I’d have to make do with Harry Nilsson. But hey, that’s just me. Obviously, lots of other middle-class white kids have felt otherwise, because, as we Nilsson fans are so often reminded, a very large portion of the history of rock is actually the history of a bunch of wannabe sharecroppers trying to earn nicknames beginning with “Howlin’.” My own tolerance for blues revivalists depends almost entirely on (1) their sense of humor about the whole affair and (2) their willingness to suck with spirit. Your knowingly half-assed white blues musician will top your very skilled white blues musician every time, which is why Jon Spencer is marginally tolerable whereas Stevie Ray Vaughan remains unpalatable even in death. It’s also why, when it comes to ersatz-primitivist put-ons, I’d sooner listen to Duluth, Minn.’s, Black-Eyed Snakes than anybody else. On their sophomore release, Rise Up!, the Snakes—who are led by one “Chicken-Bone” George (aka Low’s Alan Sparhawk) on vocals and guitar—give the blues a good, irreverent shaking of the kind that can come only from the uncool end of the Mississippi. These boys aren’t out to praise B.B., or even to bury him. They’re out to rattle him cross-eyed. From the big-beat syncopation of “Bo Diddley” to the devil-gotcha howl of “Cornbread,” the Snakes make like the most brain-damaged exiles on Main Street. George wails and moans like a Pentecostal preacher in a sex sweat, and it doesn’t hurt that he sounds as if he might be singing through a toilet-paper roll. His guitar, meanwhile, is just as chaotic as you could please, and it also has that nice raunchy tone that signals an eagerness to backslide into sin. Ditto for the six-string of bandmate “Big House” Bob Olson. Come to think of it, the whole of Rise Up! sounds about ready for a good cold shower. The Snakes deviate occasionally from blues formalism—on the Sonic Youth-ish title track, the fuzz-heavy “Foresight,” and a short but clamorous cover of Swans’ “Red Sheet”—but for the most part, they revel in their own damnation in high old style, beating out an ornery “Good Woman Blues” and an even meaner “No Good Daddy.” I probably wouldn’t play this if my woman left me. But I guarantee you that if I play it enough, my woman will go. —Michael Little