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June 1997

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Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin
Up & In
Alligator Records

Up & In album coverBob Margolin has been unfairly criticized from some corners for being too much of a Muddy Waters imitator. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course the man's proud of his seven-year association with Muddy. Who wouldn't be? But with every new album Margolin shows more and more of his very diverse influences.

Up & In, Margolin's third album for Alligator Records, is his finest to date. He's always had a reputation as an exceptional guitarist, but his singing is now stronger than ever and he's proving to be an extremely innovative songwriter.

Up & In contains several songs which Margolin previously recorded on his two Powerhouse albums in the late 80's, including the horn-driven, Memphis-sounding opening cut, "The Window." Many blues artists have tried to cash in on the whole alien autopsy craze, and Bob's no exception with "Alien's Blues," which features nice fuzzy guitar and neat lyrics like "...I may be green but I love these blues..."

One of my favorite numbers from Margolin's live shows has been his distinctive cover of Gladys Knight's "Imagination." He's now finally recorded the song, on which he lets loose with some awesome cosmic guitar licks. Up & In doesn't include any Waters songs, but Bob's own Delta-ish "She And The Devil" was inspired by a story told to him by Muddy. The veritable Pinetop Perkins duets with his usual fantastic piano work on this cut.

Those of us who know Margolin well are quite familiar with his cornball sense of humor. But I still wasn't prepared for the wacky "Blues For Bartenders," in which he interweaves three classic bartender jokes (I'm still laughing over the one about the alligator that came into the bar....).

Another highlight is the guest vocal appearance on Grady Jackson's "Coffee Break" by Atlanta singer Sweet Betty. Someone needs to record a full album by this woman real soon! Bob accompanies Betty with tasteful acoustic country blues guitar contrasting the uptown saxophone work by Kaz Kazanoff.

"'bout Out" is a mid-tempo jazzy original showcasing the great piano player Dave Maxwell with more of Kazanoff's horn work. Another longtime club favorite, the rollicking dance number "Not What You Said Last Night," is included, giving us still another chance to hear the brilliance of Perkins.

Up & In should finally allow Margolin to shed his "Muddy apprentice" reputation. He's quickly becoming a legend in his own time.

- Bill Mitchell

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