Rick Tobey, Chickenhead Blues (Louisiana Red Hot Records)

Witness a harmonica rack strapped, fedora-outfitted dude playing a National resophonic axe and chances are he’s a pedantic purist playing only the obscurest Delta material. Yet, given Rick Tobey’s unusual take, all preconceived notions derail right there. His repeated North Carolina migrations have left this Jersey refugee-Louisiana transplant with an unmistakable Piedmont stamp that’s melded with a Mississippi Delta identity. That’s enough to turn things upside down, which he adroitly does on Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You” and Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues.” Tobey’s not anybody’s Blind Mississippi wannabe, which explains the African percussion dancing around his nimble fretwork, steel shaving slide and banshee-shaking harmonica wailing. Sometimes it feels as if it’s eerie blues for werewolves (“Mr. Bad Luck,” “If You Got The Time”) while others (“Honeybun”) are laid back enough, they’re guaranteed not to harsh your mellow. Occasionally he straps on a ’57 Gibson Les Paul, Jr. and rocks it out (“I’m in Trouble”). “You My Baby” is even better—a Johnny Lee Hooker-meets Duane Allman type of encounter backed by bass and keys. Good stuff from a guy who devours the whole chicken, including the head.