Willie Cobbs is an Arkansas harmonica player/singer, best known for the oft-covered blues classic "You Don't Love Me," first recorded as a single in the mid-60s. His first full-length album was not recorded until 1994, the excellent Down To Earth for the Rooster Blues label. Cobbs is now back with a good independent release, Pay or Do 11 months & 29 days.
The album starts with the title cut, a mid-tempo Southern blues written by Memphis studio legend Teenie Hodges, who also plays guitar on these recordings. Cobbs uses his raw, powerful voice to good effect on the stoptime number "Crack Cocaine," as well as playing nice harp.
In more of a Chicago vein is the slow blues "Butler Boy Blues," featuring Cobbs on several extended harmonica breaks. Another fun tune is the uptempo original "Jukin," on which Cobbs plays spirited harmonica amidst repeated riffs from the horn section.
I also particularly like the soulful "Candidate," featuring a female chorus and some nasty fuzzy guitar. Cobbs pleads with his baby to "vote for me come love election day, because I just want to be number one at the poll with you today." Too cool!
Cobbs also encores his big hit, "You Don't Love Me." But this time around he gives it kind of a slower, reggae backbeat treatment. I like an artist who isn't afraid to push the envelope a little bit.
While unfortunately not a major player in the blues world, Willie Cobbs is certainly worth our attention. Give his new disk a listen.
- Bill Mitchell
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