Blues Bytes
April 1999

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Buy William Clarke's CD today

Buy William Clarke's Groove Time CD today

Buy Hound Dog Taylor's CD today

Buy Katie Webster's CD today



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William Clarke
Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers
Katie Webster

Deluxe Edition
Alligator

William ClarkeAlligator Records began their Deluxe Edition series last year, with "greatest hits" releases from Albert Collins and Little Charlie and the Nightcats. While those CDs were very good, the trio out this month will absolutely knock your socks off!

William Clarke joined the Alligator family in 1990, after several very good independent releases for small California labels. Influenced by players like George "Harmonica" Smith, Clarke, more than any other contemporary harmonica player, merged West Coast swing with gritty Chicago blues. This big man had the power to pack an entire horn section into a tiny 10-hole diatonic harmonica. Sadly, he passed away after the release of his fourth album, "The Hard Way," in 1996.

Clarke's bands were always highlighted by excellent guitar players, and on this collection you'll hear stalwarts like Alex Schultz, Zach Zunis, and Jeff Ross. Schultz especially shines on the swing tune "Educated Fool," from Serious Intentions. The same disc also gave us the award-winning blues song "Pawnship Bound." Clarke's mixture of swing sounds into his blues comes out on the excellent Basie-style instrumental "The Boss," from The Hard Way. There are also two unreleased songs, "Lose Your Life," a Diddley-style rhumba, and the "I Got A Feeling."

There was just so much good music on Clarke's four Alligator albums that it must have been hard to narrow the choices down to the 16 cuts on Deluxe Edition. A few great songs from my favorite disc, Groove Time, are missing, so I recommend picking up that one, too.

Hound Dog TaylorHound Dog Taylor was the inspiration for the founding of Alligator Records back in 1971, and his first four albums, the self-titled Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers was the first 'gator on the market. The liner notes of this Deluxe Edition calls the Houserockers music "ragged glory," and that goes a long way towards describing their overall sound. Or as Hound Dog himself used to say, "We couldn't play worth shit, but it sure sounded good." Or something like that.

Taylor put so much energy and feeling into his music that no one, before or since, has gotten so much out of cheap, poorly-maintained equipment. Many of Hound Dog's classics are here, especially raucous tunes like "Roll Your Moneymaker" and "Wild About You, Baby." His version of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say," from Genuine Houserocking Music, is a classic. Second guitarist Brewer Phillips was featured on tunes like "Phillips Goes Bananas" and the previously-unreleased slow blues "Phillips' Theme."

Katie WebsterKatie Webster recorded three solo albums for Alligator prior to suffering the stroke that slowed down her career in the last five years. In her prime, there were few better boogie woogie piano players, especially who could belt out a song like Ms. Webster.

It's obvious that her initial musical training came from the church, as heard on her version of James Cleveland's "It's Mighty Hard" and Joe Tex's "The Love You Save May Be Your Own." I would have loved to have heard Katie do a full gospel album.

Webster played in Otis Redding's band just prior to the soul legend's untimely death, and his influence obviously shows. Quite frankly, I think that her version of "Try A Little Tenderness" rivals Redding's original. Katie's best vocals are heard on the powerful "Two-Fisted Mama" and "Who's Making Love?"

Alligator has a trio of winners with these collections. Get 'em all.

--- Bill Mitchell

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