Blues Bytes


March/April 2012

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Magic Slim and the Teardrops
Raw Magic
Alligator Records

Magic Slim

When Alligator Records released Raw Magic in 1983, it was somewhat difficult to find any recordings by Magic Slim and the Teardrops. The bulk of Slim’s output at the time, other than his four-song appearance on Alligator’s Living Chicago Blues series in the late ’70s and 1982’s Grand Slam (released by Rooster Blues), had been recorded and released in Europe. In fact, Raw Magic consisted of songs from a couple of albums recorded in France for the Isabel label several years earlier.

The line-up at the time for the Teardrops was a classic one…..Slim on guitar and vocals, Coleman Pettis on second guitar….a rhythm guitarist so good that he had three nicknames (Daddy Rabbit, Alabama Junior, and Junior), Slim’s brother Nick Holt on bass, and Nate Applewhite on drums. As Alligator head honcho Bruce Iglauer stated in the liner notes, these guys weren’t the best at what they did with their respective instruments, but when they played together, the results were magical.

There are eight songs on Raw Magic….today that wouldn’t even be half a CD for most Alligator recordings, but Slim and the band packed more in those eight songs than most double-CD sets do these days. The opening cut, Muddy Waters’ “You Can’t Lose What You Never Had,” is maybe my all-time favorite Slim track. It is six and a half minutes of pure blues pleasure, as Slim shouts the lyrics (putting to shame the earlier Muddy Waters version), then rips into a monstrous solo that just about jumps through the speakers.

The other songs are just as strong. Slim’s version of J. B. Lenoir’s “Mama Talk to Your Daughter” sticks pretty close to the original rhythm-wise, but Slim’s ragged vocals put it in a class of its own. The old Bobby “Blue” Bland hit, “Ain’t Doin’ Too Bad,” gets a funky reworking with Holt and Applewhite providing a rock-solid backbeat. The Slim favorite, “Mustang Sally,” is also present.

Though unusual for the band, who at the time mainly relied on cover tunes for their repertoire, Slim wrote three of the songs on Raw Magic --- the lively “Gravel Road,” and a great pair of slow blues, “Why Does a Woman Treat a Good Man So Bad” and the terrific closer, “In the Heart of the Blues,” which packs another great Slim guitar solo. He’s no virtuoso by any means, but nobody plays gutbucket blues guitar better.

Applewhite soon moved on from the band, and Pettis died in 1988 after battling cancer. Mainstay Nick Holt left in the mid 2000s and passed away in 2009. However, Slim and the Teardrops continue to carry on today, as strong as ever. Raw Magic was one of Magic Slim and the Teardrops’ finest hours in a catalog that’s loaded with great albums. It’s hard to find a better set of blues from start to finish.

--- Graham Clarke
Read Graham's blog


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