It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever heard a blues song that the narrator of “Baby, Scratch My Back” isn’t really talking about itchy shoulder blades. And if the metaphor is still too subtle, Whitehorse’s slinky, sultry new cover will get the message across.
The Canadian husband-and-wife duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland are preparing to release The Northern South Vol. 2, their latest blues-covers LP, in January (we spoke to them about their own favorite cover songs last month). Their cover of “Baby, Scratch My Back” is a highlight, slower and groovier than some of the more upbeat jams. McClelland’s trademark telephone-mic brings an era-appropriate distortion as Doucet’s fiery guitar leads channel vintage Chess Records. They use pots for percussion, which sounds like something an old bluesman might do, and blow some melodica, which doesn’t.
“The obvious innuendo in ‘Scratch My Back’ is made especially sexy when gender-bent by Melissa,” Doucet says. “We know the original Slim Harpo record and I was always a fan of The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ rendition, but we’d never heard a woman’s take on it. The vocal is interesting too in that it’s more or less spoken word without any real melody. It’s just pillow talk over a really simple beat.”
“There’s some serious foreplay happening between the vocal and the lead guitar,” adds McClelland. “She’s coaxing him on as he’s improvising and it’s a perfect example of how sex and rock n roll or the blues go hand in hand- they draw from the same guttural, instinctual place. I love how this song spells it out.”
Watch a new video for Whitehorse’s “Baby, Scratch My Back” cover exclusively below.
Pre-order Whitehorse’s ‘The Northern South Vol. 2’ at Six Shooter Records.