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July 2015

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Henry Gray & Bob Corritore
Henry Gray / Bob Corritore Sessions: Blues Won't Let Me Take My Rest
Delta Groove Records

Henry Gray

At 90 years of age, blues piano man Henry Gray has enjoyed a very productive career. In addition to manning the keyboards in the legendary Howlin’ Wolf’s band for 12 years in the ’50s and ’60s, Gray also served as a session man on hundreds of tracks for Chess, Vee-Jay, and United Records, backing Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Rogers, Little Walter and many others.

Gray continues to remain active, and has enjoyed an ongoing collaboration with harmonica player Bob Corritore for many years. Delta Groove recently issued the first volume of The Henry Gray/Bob Corritore Sessions, Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest, a wonderful set collecting 14 tunes recorded over a 19-year period by the duo, with able assistance from an veritable A-List of blues musicians.

Of the 14 tracks, a wide-ranging set of both rare and familiar covers moving from Gray’s native Louisiana to the Mississippi Delta to the Windy City, ten are previously unreleased. There are no recording dates listed on the disc, but it has the feel of being done in one session due to the consistent production values and performances from Corritore and Gray, despite the 19-year span.

Gray does the vocal chores on nine of the tracks, which include a pair of his own compositions (the title track and “I’m Gonna Miss You”), and tracks from Fats Domino (“I’m In Love Again”), Lowell Fulson (“Trouble Blues”), Jimmy Reed (“Honey Don’t Let Me Go”), and B.B. King (“She Don’t Move Me No More”). Robert Lockwood, Jr. (“Ramblin’ On My Mind”), John Brim (“That Ain’t Right”), Nappy Brown (“Worried Life Blues”), Tail Dragger (“Boogie Woogie Ball”), and Dave Riley (“Ride With Your Daddy Tonight”) contributing a vocal apiece.

Lockwood, Brim, and Riley join an impressive line-up of guitarists which includes Bob Margolin, Johnny Rapp, Kid Ramos, Little Frank, Kirk Fletcher, Chris James, and Danny Michel. In total, there are around 30 musicians backing on drums, bass, keyboards, and saxes.

This is as close to the real vintage stuff as you’re going to get these days. Henry Gray has been doing this for over seven decades and sounds as good as ever. As always, Corritore provides outstanding support with his peerless, understated backing. After hearing Volume 1 of the Gray/Corritore sessions, I guarantee you’ll be anxiously awaiting Volume 2.

--- Graham Clarke
Read Graham's blog

One of my fondest memories of my tenure as the President of the Phoenix Blues Society was a Back Porch event that resulted in Henry Gray, Robert Lockwood Jr. and Chico Chism all on stage at the same time. To watch these three legends perform in perfect harmony was a beautiful sight to see and one of many lasting memories I carry with me as a result of my love for the Blues.

When the latest Delta Groove release from Henry & Bob Corritore came in the mail, Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest, it caused me to pause and peruse the list of performers on this outstanding disc. Departed legends such as Robert Jr., Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Nappy Brown, Phoenix legend Chico Chism and our own Paul Thomas are all here on tracks recorded over a 19-year period by Phoenix recording legend Clarke Rigsby in conjunction with Bob Corritore.

This is a disc that will be considered for Blues Music Award nomination and kudos to Bob Corritore for having the foresight and patience to ensure that all of these tracks were lovingly recorded and archived for posterity. The result is a recording that will stand the test of time and provide a gateway for appreciating a number of great Bluesmen, all who have encouraged and maintained our Blues traditions.

The disc is appropriately named, The Henry Gray / Bob Corritore Sessions – Blues Won’t Let Take My Rest and one of the unifying themes is that of Henry’s piano and Bob’s harp as important parties to all of the tracks. There are numerous other artists on this disc, and while the list is too long to go into artist by artist, some of the key performers include: Tail Dragger; Bob Margolin; Kid Ramos; Bob Stroger; Patrick Rynn; Chris James; Brian Fahey; Dave Riley, and Phoenix bluesmen Johnny Rapp and Mario Moreno. All are seasoned veterans of the greater Blues community and in synchronicity with each other throughout the record. The playing is flawless and Clarke Rigsby deserves additional accolades for working hard to get it all down on tape.

Among the disc’s many highlights include Henry Gray’s vocals on the title tune, “Blues Won’t Let Me Rest,” a song he wrote. Robert Lockwood Jr. handles the lead vocals on the Robert Johnson tune, “Ramblin’ On My Mind,” and Nappy Brown contributes his lead vocal on “Worried Life Blues." Other highlights are Dave Riley’s guitar and vocals on “Ride With Your Daddy Tonight, ”John Brim with his vocals and guitar on a tune he wrote, “That Ain’t Right,” and of course Tail Dragger for his vocal on “Boogie Woogie Ball.” There’s a who’s who of sidemen in addition to those I’ve already mentioned and their performances all come together to give all of us a much-deserved blues history lesson.

Kudos to the good folks at Delta Groove Music for continuing the legacy of departed founder, Randy Chortkoff, and maintaining his vision for the company. Henry Gray is a past recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment of the Arts and this disc only begins to show why he’s a true legend of the Blues as he continues to perform as a “90 years young” Bluesman.

More information on this disc can be found on Bob Corritore’s website, The Henry Gray / Bob Corritore Sessions - Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest contains so many historical performances, by American Bluesmen, that to me it’s a must have. Grab a copy soon and listen to it often…your ears and your soul will thank me later.

--- Kyle Deibler



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