Chicago's James Pobiega gained some brief fame and some long-lived fascination in the Eighties as Little Howlin' Wolf (among other aliases), playing on the streets and bridges of the city in a number of singular setups that reflected his fascinating and unusual conception of music, his surprising chops, and his love of the blues. His stage name taken from the uncanny resemblance of his voice to that of the Chess-era Chicago blues legend, Pobiega's large batch of singles tended to dump his growling, unidentifiable vocals into a stew of instruments creating a cacophony that is surely one of the most unusual interpretations of the blues on record. This approach—combining such dense weirdness with a definite accessibility and logic—has made him a titan in the world of outsider music.
Typically incorporating a wide variety of instruments that he has played himself, overdubbing as he goes, Pobiega's tunes can initially sound like a mess. At any given point, as few as two instruments--say, drums and harmonica--might be playing on the same tempo, with guitar figures ducking in and out like conversations passed in the street, and organ and percussion plodding along in two different time signatures. Pobiega's saxophone playing floats over the top of it all, playing the most recognizably schooled licks of any of the instruments in an original and soulful way. Despite the northern origins of the sound, there’s a consistently Bayou feel here, a swampy plodding in the beat that harkens back to the roots of the electrified Chicago blues that Pobiega so loves.
"Cool Truth" compiled a number of his singles when it was self-released in 1985, and HereSee Records has re-released it here. Although this is a compelling document, it is a basic one, consisting of a straight dub of the original LP, with needle drops and all (perhaps coming from the original compilation). This release contains no new information about Pobiega or his body of work, but that mystery is part of the charm of the CD, which retains a bit of his outsider status for itself. 8/10 -- Travis Bird (11 August, 2010)