Blues Bytes


May 2020

Nolan Struck and King Edward
Brother to Brother
Paula Records

Nolan Struck and King Edward

When I started listening to the blues in the mid ’80s, there were several blues artists who were regulars on the Jackson, Mississippi scene that I remember reading about in the newspaper. Two of the most frequent names I saw in the paper were Nolan Struck and King Edward, who also happened to be brothers. Both were born in Louisiana but traveled all over the country during their careers. I never got to hear Struck perform, but I did catch King Edward in the early ’90s at a local festival.

Nolan Struck started out as a dancer, but ended up playing bass for Lonnie Brooks in the ’50s. He began backing artists like Denise LaSalle and Tyrone Davis in the early ’60s before getting his start recording as a vocalist in the late ’60s, releasing a number of 45s and a couple of albums for Ichiban and Retta’s (later reissued on J&B Records), mostly in the soul-blues vein. His high tenor voice suited that genre well.

A guitarist by trade, King Edward spent time performing and recording in Chicago (backing Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells) before heading back down to Mississippi to back artists like McKinley Mitchell, Sam Myers, and his brother Struck. King Edward has been honored on no less than three Mississippi blues trail markers, all located in the Jackson, Mississippi area, and he is much beloved in the Magnolia State.

In the mid ’90s, the brothers joined forces for Brother to Brother, released on Paula Records. For me, Paula was a great source of blues music. In the early ’90s, they released the early recordings of Otis Rush, Magic Sam, and Junior Wells, as well as albums by Earl Hooker, J.B. Lenoir, Snooky Pryor, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Jimmy Reed, and John Lee Hooker, plus dozens of collections of vintage blues from the ’50s. Occasionally, the label released new recordings, too, one of which happened to be Brother to Brother.

Struck sings the first eight tracks, consisting of traditional blues (Little Walter’s “Blues With A Feeling,” Lowell Fulson’s “Black Night” and “Reconsider Baby,” Junior Parker’s “Mystery Train”). There are several songs from the prolific composer Bob Jones included (the soul-blues number “Blues For Mississippi,” “Miss Misery,” and the slow cooking “How Do You Want Your Thrill”) and one Struck original (the mid-tempo “You Been Cheating On Me”). Struck’s vocal style is well-suited to these songs, moving effortlessly from soul to blues with his hearty tenor.

King Edward’s seven tracks include a few stalwarts: B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby,” Willie Cobbs’ “You Don’t Love Me,” Lightnin’ Hopkins “Mr. Charlie,” and a solid read of Fenton Robinson’s “You Don’t Know What Love Is.” He also covers his brother’s “Life Been Good To Me,” and collaborates with him on “Looking Good Again Tonight,” and with Jones for the funky “You Got Something Good Going For You.” King Edward is a fine guitarist in the B.B. King mode and a sturdy vocalist, too.

Overall, Brother to Brother is a strong set of traditional urban and soul blues from two fine, underrated bluesmen. It’s still a great listen some 25 years after its initial release.

---- Graham Clarke



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