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October / November 2007

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Jesse Fortune
Fortune Tellin' Man
Delmark Records

Jesse FortuneThis review first appeared in the Phoenix Blues Society's Blues News in October 1993. Fortunately, this album is still available but it's the only legacy of Fortune's music on the market today.

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I regret not knowing anything about the blues during the 1960s when many great artists, such as Mississippi John Hurt, Son House and Skip James were being re-discovered years after their last recordings were made. Fortunately there are still musicians out there just waiting to resurface. In the past few years we've seen Black Top Records bring back James Davis, Robert Ward and Bobby Parker, among others.

Delmark Records has now made a major find in Jesse Fortune, who recorded a grand total of four sides for the USA label in 1963, and then quit the music business for life as a barber. I caught Fortune at the 1992 Chicago Blues Festival, and was just blown away by the voice of this kindly-looking man who looked like he had just come from church.

Fortune Tellin' Man is a solid effort from start to finish. Backed by young Chicago guitarist Dave Specter and his band the Blubirds, Fortune blasts out 11 tunes with his booming voice. My favorite number of the disc is Willie Dixon's "Too Many Cooks," a rumba rocker that Fortune also recorded in 1963 and that Robert Cray has covered.

"Fortune Tellin' Man" and "Lovingest Woman In Town" are both rockin', uptempo songs, while Fortune's slower numbers, "Gambler's Blues" and Ray Charles' "Losing Hand" are just filled to the brim with emotion.

Fortune Tellin' Man is  certain to be one of the five best releases of 1993. Let's hope that it's not another 30 years before Jesse Fortune returns to the recording studio.

--- Bill Mitchell

 

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