Bubba Sparxxx, 'Deliverance' (Beat Club/Interscope)

8
Deliverance
Critical Mass
Label: Beat Club/Interscope

by Jon Caramanica

Back in 2001, Bubba Sparxxx played Eminem to Timbaland's Dr.Dre. But instead of riding the pale wave to success, he found that a short white man could cast a long shadow. His forceful debut,Dark Days, Bright Nights, might have been lauded in leaner times; instead, it became a footnote to Marshall Mathers' massiveness. On Deliverance, Bubba's back, and he's traded frolicking in pig slop (see the "Ugly" video) for a more robust evocation of life below the Mason-Dixon line. Together, he and Timbaland create a mellifluous wonderworld, a utopian South where bluegrass lives easily alongside bulbous bass, and the Delta blues give rise to a sound that brags, mopes, memorializes, and parties with equal acuity.

"Nowhere" falls squarely in that last tradition--while Timbaland resurrects the synthesized violins he laid over Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River," peppering them with scattered snares, Sparxxx toasts his father and boasts of toting guns. "My Baby's Gone" eulogizes a relationship (with "a fly country girl just a-workin' them gifts") lost to infidelity, and the beats take a backseat to some frenetic fiddling. It's a bait and switch someone like Kid Rock might try but only Sparxxx could pull off. He's always been an eerily skilled MC--on "Back in the Mud," he rhymes almost exclusively in triplets, and his flow exploits both the unchained melody and the motorized funk that tows it like a trailer. For the juke-joint blues of "Jimmy Mathis" and the breezy mountain song "Comin Round," he takes old-school-as-the-hills song forms and gussies them up for the club.

Actually, forget the club. You can still find Sparxxx in the mud. On "Hootnanny," he licks his fingers and counts the spoils of impending success: "[I'll] get another pig to give my other pig some company / Rent a double-wide and just live it out in luxury." This is Bubba's moment. I'd put my mother on it.

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