Funderburgh & the Rockets featuring Sam Myers
Black Top Records
One of my first blues guitar heroes was Anson
Funderburgh, leading the band Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets.
He played regularly around the Jackson, Mississippi area with
Sam Myers. They were one of the first blues bands I saw in
person, way back in 1987. Funderburgh was cool as a cucumber
playing the guitar with those sharp, crisp, concise solos, Myers
was the epitome of a southern blues man to these eyes and ears
with his world-weary vocals and harmonica, and the Rockets (Matt
McCabe – piano, Rhandy Simmons – bass, and Marc Wilson – drums)
were one of the best bands out there.
The first album I was able to find by the band
was 1988’s Sins, on Black Top Records. They were one of
the first signees to the label in the early 80’s, when Darrell
Nulisch was fronting the band before going solo in 1985.
Funderburgh and Myers had recorded an earlier album for Black
Top, My Love Is Here To Stay, under their own names, but
Sins was the first of their releases billed as Anson
Funderburgh & the Rockets featuring Sam Myers. The 12-song set
included three Myers/Funderburgh originals and nine tasty
covers, including a familiar Myers tune from 30 years earlier.
Black Top labelmate Earl King contributed the
playful opener, “A Man Needs His Loving” and the lively “I Don’t
Want No Leftovers.” Myers has a good time singing the lyrics on
these two tracks (mixing in a harp solo on the latter track) and
Funderburgh contributes a brief, but potent solo on the opener.
The soulful ballad “I’ll Be True” comes between the two King
songs. and it demonstrates Myers’ vocal versatility. Albert
King’s “Walked All Night” provides a fine showcase for
Funderburgh’s guitar work, while Little Walter’s “My Kind of
Baby” allows Myers the same accommodations on harmonica.
The splendid slow burner “Changing
Neighborhoods” is a Myers/Funderburgh original and one of their
best to these ears. A fine effort by the entire band. Elmore
James’ “Can’t Stop Loving” is transformed into a rhumba (with
Funderburgh on slide guitar), and “Chill Out” is a wonderful
instrumental tribute to Albert Collins (with Ron Levy sitting in
on organ). Meanwhile, Sam Myers turns in a supremely soulful
vocal on Percy Mayfield’s ballad “My Heart,” before moving into
another Myers/Funderburgh original, “Trying To Make You Mine.”
Myers also updates his 1956 hit, “Sleeping In
The Ground,” expanding on the original with extended harmonica
and keyboard solos from Myers and McCabe respectively. The album
closes with a terrific cover of Eddie Burns’ “Hard Hearted
Funderburgh, Myers, and the Rockets released
three more studio albums, a live album, and a compilation with
Black Top, moving to Bullseye Blues for two releases after Black
Top folded in the late ’90s. Myers released a solo album on
Electro-Fi in 2004, with Mel Brown on guitar, before passing
away due to complications from throat cancer in 2006.
Funderburgh continues to perform, preferring to produce and
record with other artists, such as John Németh, Andy T and Nick
Nixon, Jose Ramirez, and the Texas Horns, and many others.
Sins remains my favorite Anson
Funderburgh/Sam Myers album, but ALL their albums are worth
having. It was a fortunate thing for the blues world when these
two artists decided to collaborate.
--- Graham Clarke