Magic Slim and
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
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