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January 2002

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John Primer
Cold Blooded Blues Man
  Wolf Records

John Primer - Cold Blooded Blues ManSinger/songwriter/guitarist John Primer surrounded himself with a bunch of Chicago Blues all-stars (George Baze, Nick Holt, Earl Howell, Billy Branch) for this mid-'90s release. It was easy to attract these stalwarts for his fifth solo record since Primer himself was already established on the who's who list of Chicago blues. In 1963, he relocated from Mississippi to the Windy City and slowly secured his place in the blues pantheon. By the time these recordings were made, he had already finished regular stints with Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and Magic Slim (who makes a guest appearance on one track).

On this self-produced disc, John chooses to mix traditional acoustic Delta with electric Chicago blues over the course of 13 tracks that last 60 minutes. If you fancy either of these styles then walk, I mean run out and pick up this disc of exceptional diverse repertoire reflecting songs by: Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Luther Allison, Robert Johnson and 4 Primer originals. The material was recorded between 1991 and 1994. It captures the intensity and vivacity of John's live performances which his other studio material has struggled to deliver.

The tenor sax of Michael Jackson rounds out the sound on "Dreaming" while Detroit Junior rollicks on keys. Primer's lead guitar work is astounding. With just a few chillingly precise notes he pours out more emotion than Destiny's Child could deliver in an entire evening. Eddie Shaw takes over the sax on "Cuttin' Loose" while Little Mack Simmons plays harp on a host of tunes with the most notable being the title track. With plenty of vocal range, John sings strongly "... I play blues for the young, the old, the rich, the poor if its blues that you choose, I've got some blues you can use..." "What Love Will Do" has been covered by many, but this is one of the best. 

John proves that he learned more than how to play a mean guitar from the masters. On the self-penned, "Meet Her In The Dark," he shows that he inherited their rich humor. Check out these lyrics "... .I wish I was a grapefruit and I'll tell you why, when you come to kiss me I'll squirt you in the eye ..." 

Recorded in Austria with the Hooked On Blues Band, "Sad Sad Day" contains classic Muddy slide guitar licks (you know the ones). This version is on a par with that of Morganfield's. It is brilliant, simply brilliant. At this point, John sheds the band and continues for the duration in an acoustic setting, proving he can hold his own even when performing completely solo.

Isn't it ironic that some of the best Chicago blues recordings made in recent times have not been for a U.S. label? This release on Austria's Wolf Records may be a little hard to find and it might cost more than a domestic release. However, as Brett Bonner accurately describes in the liner notes --- "straight ahead Chicago blues of the type that are far too rare today." 

In the case of John Primer, being a cold blooded blues man equates to the finest in Chicago blues. 

For CD information, write to Wolf Records USA Inc., PO Box 6066, Chicago, IL 60680-6066, or call (312) 492-6141, or send e-mail to

--- Tim Holek

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