John Primer &
You Can Make It If You Try!
guitarist John Primer was an integral member of
Magic Slim & The Teardrops for a large chunk of his
still flourishing blues career. During the live
shows from his Teardrops stint, Primer would
typically lead the band, consisting of Magic Slim's
brother Nick Holt (bass) and Earl Howell (drums)
through a few tunes leading up to the onstage
arrival of the star of the show. These brief shows
by Primer and the band were of such high quality
that they were never regarded as a step down from
the main act.
Wolf Records, an untiring chronicler of all things Chicago blues, has
released a collection of these live recordings,
You Can Make It If You Try!, crediting the band
as John Primer & The Teardrops. These live
performances were recorded in the early 1990s from
various appearances by The Teardrops in Vienna,
Austria. Sound quality is so impeccable that I
first thought they were studio recordings until
detecting the unobtrusive audience background noise.
The title cut, a slow
blues cover of an Otis Rush classic, is as good as
it gets, with Primer and his guitar whipping the
audience into a blues fervor. I love Rush's music as
much as the next person, but I'll put this version
up against the original. According to the liner
notes, Primer and his wife cried when the recording
was played back to them years later. Man, that's the
power of the blues!
Listening to "You Can
Make It If You Try!" over and over, with four (4!)
incendiary guitar solos from Primer spread over its
nine-minute length, justifies the cost of this CD on
its own. But wait ... there are 10 more cuts here, all equally as good. Most songs are
blues classics that we've heard many times over the
years, but John and The Teardrops infuse them with
their own style and personality.
down a masterful guitar solo to open the nine-minute
slow blues, Muddy Waters' "If I Could Hold You In My
Arms." Equally good is the rendition of the Robert
Johnson classic, "Love In Vain," in quite different from the original
version as the band stretches this one out to nearly seven
minutes with several Primer guitar solos.
"Standing At The
Crossroads" is a classic blues shuffle, but
style described in the liner notes as utilizing the
Teardrops' "Lump" style of accompaniment, in which
Primer simultaneously plays four parts on his guitar
--- rhythm, baseline, lead and slide. (Be sure to
read the liner notes for more information on this
"Straightforward Lump" style).
Primer shows his
versatility on the guitar with the chords he throws
down on a cover of Albert King's version of the
classic "Corinna," with more of a rhythm & blues
treatment here. The CD ends with an extended version
of Muddy's slow blues "Long Distance Call." Primer
spent some time in Mr. Waters' band, and I'm sure
that Muddy would smile if he could hear this version of one of his
Other songs, all
equally good as the ones I've already mentioned,
include another Muddy Waters number, "Sweet Man,"
Stevie Ray Vaughn's "My Little Sister," Hound Dog
Taylor's "Big Fat Woman," Junior Parker's "Don't You
Hear Me Crying For You," and Guitar Slim's "Things I
Used To Do."
Throughout the album,
Holt and Howell provided rock steady accompaniment,
never intruding on Primer but laying down a solid
blues foundation, just like they did for Magic Slim
for many, many years.
recordings aren't brand new, they are every bit as
good as anything else you'll hear this year. Do
yourself a favor and add this great CD to your blues