Blues Bytes


February 2013

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Al Miller
... In Between Time
Delmark Records

Al Miller

Al Miller was playing the blues in Chicago back in the mid ’60s as part of the Butterfield / Bloomfield / Musselwhite blues circle, and was a member of The Dirty Wurds, the first white blues band signed to Chess Records. He later moved to San Francisco, where he teamed with Bloomfield for a couple of years before moving back to Chicago in the early ’70s and beginning a non-music career. In 1995, Miller released Wild Cards on the Delmark label with Dave Specter, Willie Kent, Tad Robinson, and Steve Freund. Miller experienced some health issues after the album’s release and didn’t get back into the studio until 1999/2000, when he self-released ….In Between Time, which was recently picked up and reissued by Delmark.

Like its predecessor, ….In Between Time features Miller mixing his own compelling compostions with a solid set of cover tunes that mix some hidden gems with the familiar. Also, Miller (who plays harmonica and guitar) has assembled another stellar set of backing musicians, which include Specter, Billy Flynn, and John Primer on guitar, Ken Saydak, Rob Waters, and Barrelhouse Chuck on keyboards, Kenny Smith and Mike Schlick on drums, Joe Filisko on harmonica, Harlan Terson on bass, S. C. Wagner on maracas, and a horn section that includes John Brumbach on tenor sax and Benny Winograd on baritone sax.

Cover tracks include three from mandolinist Johnny Young, with whom Miller played quite a bit in the ’60s. These include “My Baby Walked Out,” the instrumental “I Got It,” and “Tighten Up On It.” Primer sings on three tracks, Little Walter’s “Dead Presidents,” B.B. King’s “I Need You So Bad,” and Elmore James’ “1839,” and plays lead guitar on “Lawhorn Special.” Miller handles vocals on the Young tracks, Eddie Taylor’s “If You Don’t Want Me,” Jimmy McCracklin’s “Rockin’ All Day,” Little Walter’s “Make It Alright,” and Percy Mayfield’s “Bachelor Blues.”

Miller’s originals include the title track, where he plays guitar accompanied by Flynn’s slide guitar, the Latin-flavored “Old Friends,” “A Better Day,” a cool track which finds Flynn channeling Earl Hooker’s wah wah guitar, the intense “Lake Michigan Waters,” which features some impassioned vocals and harp from Miller and a scorching guitar break from Flynn, and “Blizzard,” a previously unreleased track that closes the disc. Flynn also contributes the rocking instrumental, “Billy’s Boogie.”

….In Between Time is a masterful showcase of Chicago Blues that thankfully will now receive the larger audience it deserves, thanks to Delmark Records. Hopefully, we can see Al Miller in the studio again in the near future.

--- Graham Clarke
Read Graham's blog


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