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April 1998

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Elmore James / John Brim
Whose Muddy Shoes
Chess / MCA

Whose Muddy ShoesOf the many, many excellent reissues of Chess recordings by MCA, Whose Muddy Shoes is by no means the most essential. But I've probably listened to this disk more than nearly every other CD in my collection, and can't imagine being stranded on the proverbial desert island without it.

Originally issued on vinyl in 1969, Whose Muddy Shoes contains nine vintage tracks from slide guitarist Elmore James and another half dozen from the vastly underappreciated John Brim. Most of the cuts were recorded in 1953, during the heyday of the Chicago blues scene, supplemented by a few 1956 and 1960 sessions.

One of the best-known tunes here is James' urgent slide classic "Madison Blues," later made famous by George Thorogood. I heard the latter version on the radio the other day, prompting me to dig this CD to listen to it one more time.

Other regular James songs include "Dust My Broom," "Talk To Me Baby," and "The Sun Is Shining" (which is basically the same number as "The Sky Is Crying," with a happier bent). The title cut, while not as well-known as other tunes from the James songbook, is one of the best on the disk, featuring slow, pleading vocals from Elmo.

The Brim songs are just as essential to any serious blues collection, including his biggest hits "Ice Cream Man" and "Tough Times." Brim had a more downhome sound than James, but the two artists complement each other extremely well.

Whose Muddy Shoes is blues at its absolute best. If you don't have this CD, get it now. If you do have it, then listen to it again soon.

--- Bill Mitchell

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