Skip McDonald's Little Axe returns for Champagne and Grits, and it could well be the band's finest, most expansive set yet. Little Axe's brand of blues-gospel-dub is probably the most interesting and adventurous of all the projects that attempt to infuse new life into the blues, and Champagne and Grits rivals their debut not only for an outstanding set of tunes, but for sheer sonic experimentation as well. Skip runs the show with plenty of help from producer Adrian Sherwood, and of course Doug Wimbish and Keith LeBlanc are on hand as well. The set starts with a pure acoustic blues, but then enters territory charted only by this band. It's still the blues, but there are gospel-flavored vocals, eerie harmonica, and fantastic dub elements all combined into a singular style. Disembodied vocals and sermons waft in and out of the ether, along with washes of electronica, soulful blues guitar, and wicked basslines. A couple of the tracks venture a bit further into reggae territory (with some help from Junior Delgado), but it still all feels bluesy despite the additional trappings. McDonald knows and respects the past, but he knows how to build on it, not enshrine it. Little Axe is the only band that does what it does, and does it brilliantly. Ancient to the future. Highly recommended.