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June 2019

Bob Corritore & Friends
Do The Hip-Shake Baby!
VizzTone Records

Bob CorritorePhoenix blues impresario / harmonica player Bob Corritore has a sterling reputation for taking steady parade of outstanding blues singers and players into the studio when they are in town to play at his Rhythm Room club, resulting in many years of excellent blues compilations. Last June I declared his Don't Let The Devil Ride! album as perhaps his best collection to date. I will now retract that statement because Corritore's newest album, Do The Hip-Shake Baby! (VizzTone Records), is even better and has already cemented a spot on my 2019 Top Ten list.

The 13 cuts on Do The Hip-Shake Baby! were cut in various sessions from 2016 through 2018, containing a veritable who's who of blues stars and session players as well as Corritore's own harp playing. Every song here is wonderful, especially if your preferred style of music is back alley Chicago blues or downhome blues. There's even a touch of soul found throughout the disc.

The disc kicks off with Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips," opening with some tribal drumming and harmonica before Mighty Joe Milsap of The Fremonts jumps in with echo-laden vocals. This version is very different from the original, but I'm sure that Slim Harpo would like it. Alabama Mike takes the lead vocals, with Willie Buck singing behind him, on the up-tempo shuffle "Gonna Tell Your Mother," with guitar solos from L.A. Jones. Veteran blues crooner Oscar Wilson steps up to the mic for a lesser-known Jimmy Reed song, "Bitter Seed," with nice piano work from Fred Kaplan. Corritore just plan nails the Jimmy Reed harp sound, making his riffs the highlight of this number.

Cut number four is reason enough to buy this CD, with 90-something piano player Henry Gray doing "The Twist." That's right, you read that correctly --- "The Twist," done originally by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters and then made famous by Chubby Checker. No other explanation needed other than a whole bunch of exclamation points. Bill "Howl-N-Mad" Perry takes us into a Mississippi jook joint with the slow country blues "You Better Slow Down." Alabama Mike returns for a unique version of the blues standard "Worried Life Blues," a mid-tempo shuffle with a taste of Sam Cooke in his vocals while Corritore contributes Louisiana-style harp and Jimi "Primetime" Smith lays down a killer guitar solo.

As good as the album has been to this point, it just gets better when John Primer comes in with a Muddly Waters cover, "Love Deep As The Ocean." Primer puts a lot of power into his vocals as well as playing such a strong guitar solo that I'm sure Muddy would be grinning from ear to ear. Bob Welsh's piano playing is also a highlight of this cut. Sugaray Rayford and guitarist Junior Watson team up on the up-tempo shuffle "Trying To Make A Living," with Rayford's vocals booming through the sound system. We get more outstanding soulful vocals from Alabama Mike on Little Junior Parker's slow soul ballad, "Stand By Me." Corritore comes in with tastefully effective harmonica playing partway through the tune.

Milsap must really like Slim Harpo's music since his other contribution to the album is a fine cover of "I'm Gonna Keep What I've Got," leading into Jimi "Primetime" Smith's tasteful vocals on the up-tempo blues "I Got The World In A Jug." I've been listening to Corritore play harmonica for nearly 30 years, but quite frankly I've never heard him play to the level of his work on this song. The man sounds like he's possessed! Alabama Mike shifts gears completely with the rockabilly-ish "Few More Days," on which he's backed by a background chorus of some of the Phoenix area's best soul singers: Jerry Lawson (formerly of The Persuasions), Michael Reed, Stan Devereaux and Phil Hendricks. A brilliant move in assembling this group of veteran vocalists.

Closing the disc is a slow-moving, heavy blues, "Keep The Lord On With You," featuring raspy Howlin' Wolf-style vocals by Sugaray Rayford. This song is so intense that it should come with a parental advisory warning. Or maybe not advised for those with heart conditions. Regardless, it's an excellent ending to one of the best albums of the year.

If you have any interest at all in the blues, which I assume you do since you're reading this review, then you will absolutely want to add Do The Hip-Shake Baby! to your shopping list right away. You may be tempted to just get the digital version, but I recommend you order the physical CD so that you have all of the liner notes and session information. Do it now.

--- Bill Mitchell



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