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March 1997

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Snooks Eaglin
Live In Japan
Black Top Records

Snooks Eaglin is one of those elusive blues artists who you seldom get the chance to see in person. It’s rare that he appears outside of his New Orleans home base. Which is why a live album from Eaglin is a welcome addition to his vast discography.

Live In Japan catches the "human jukebox" on a good night in Tokyo in December 1995. Any set list from Eaglin is bound to be his usual eclectic mix, and the 13 song selection here is no exception. There are New Orleans standards written by the likes of Earl King, Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew, Smiley Lewis, and Eaglin himself, as well as a couple of slow blues tunes and a Bill Doggett instrumental. But two of the best numbers here are Eaglin’s funky interpretations of The Isley Brothers’ "It’s Your Thing" and Stevie Wonder’s "(Boogie On) Reggae Woman," both done in Eaglin’s unique style.

What really stands out on Live In Japan is Eaglin’s extremely tasty guitar playing. He’s a vastly underrated player who doesn’t need a multitude of excesses to define his style. On the slow blues classic "Black Night," you’ll hear Eaglin taking a couple of nice guitar solos. But the real star on this tune is bassist George Porter, the former Meter. I’ve always considered Porter to be the world’s greatest bass player, and I’m certain you’ll agree after hearing his solo on this number.

You can’t have an album from a New Orleans artist without a good Mardi Gras number, and the good time "I Went To The Mardi Gras" meets that requirement. The soulful "Nine Pound Steel," written by noted songwriter Dan Penn, is another great one.

Live In Japan closes with a rollicking fun version of James Wayne’s "Traveling Mood," which again features spine-tingling guitar riffs from Eaglin.

Snooks Eaglin is one of a kind. If you’ve never seen him, then you’ve got to somehow find a way to catch him in person. Until then, Live In Japan will suffice quite well.

- Bill Mitchell

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