Ann Rabson, on original member of
Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women, has now taken her music
to another level with her first solo release, Music
Makin Mama (Alligator). While best known for
her piano work with Saffire, Rabsons vocal skills
have matured considerably in the past few years as has
her guitar playing. All three of her talents get to shine
on this disk. Among the special guests are John Cephas,
Phil Wiggins, sister Mimi Rabson on violin, Greg Piccolo,
Bob Margolin, and Big Joe Maher. Music Makin Mama
is bluesier than the normal Saffire material, and
contains a mixture of oldtime blues classics and Rabson
originals. I really liked the funky Huey
"Piano" Smith cover "Baby, Every Once In A
While." An excellent album!
Austin, Texas-based Gary Primich
moves over to Black Top Records for his newest, Company
Man. This is a good one. What distinguishes Primich
from the countless other harmonica players and singers
out there today is that his music comes across as fresh
and original, not derivative of every other artist before
him. "The Briar Patch" is a smokin
instrumental, with Primich soloing on the chromatic
harmonica. "Aint You Trouble" is an
entertaining, lighthearted jazzy shuffle. Another strong
disk from a great artist.
Blues legend John Lee Hooker, who keeps announcing his retirement, is back in action with Dont Look Back (Pointblank). As on his other recent albums, this one features a host of big name artists like Van Morrison, Charles Brown, and the members of Los Lobos. Hookers sound has now shifted from his hard-driving boogie sound to more of a late night, after hour blues. The presence of Brown and his excellent band provide solid backing, especially on the wonderful "Aint No Big Thing." The octogenarian shows hes still got some spunk by tackling Jimi Hendrixs "Red House," turning it into a slow blues. This is the best Hooker album in quite some time.
Jelly Roll Kings (Big Jack Johnson, Frank Frost, and
Sam Carr) have been playing together for nearly 40 years.
Off Yonder Wall (Fat Possum/Capricorn) shows that
this veteran Clarksdale, Mississippi trio still has it,
as they go through a selection of 10 tunes, highlighted
by another version of "Have Mercy Baby," which
they also covered on their 1979 Earwig Records album.
These guys are the real thing.
Larry Johnsons 1971 album Fast and Funky was originally released on the Blue Goose label, and is long out of print. Now, thanks to the Baltimore Blues Society, its available once more. Fast and Funky is a fine example of East Coast ragtime country blues, and fans of acoustic music will definitely want to add this disk to their collections. Especially nice is Johnsons own spiritual number "Lordy Good Lord."
Dorothy Moores soulful blues
song "Misty Blue," released by Malaco Records
in 1976, was one of the biggest blues hits of the
70s. Nominated for two Grammy awards, "Misty
Blue" became a number one R&B and pop hit, and
sold over two million copies. Malaco has now released Misty
Blue and Other Greatest Hits, a retrospective of
Moores long recording career. In addition to her
big hit, theres also a version of another big
seller, "Funny How Time Slips Away."
A lesser known vocalist in the same style as Moore is Oregon songstress Korla Wygal. Her new CD, Perfectly Korla, shows Wygal to be a very good singer performing a variety of styles ranging from blues, R&B, jazz and pop. I preferred the bluesier songs "Damn Your Eyes" and "Bad Aint So Good." Id now like to hear Wygal tackle a full album of blues tunes.
--- Bill Mitchell
When you think of the blues, what state comes to mind? Why, South Dakota of course. Thats where Scotty Spenner hails from, and where he recorded The First Thing Smokin (Grovers Choir). This 13-song collection of acoustic guitar pieces features numbers written by blues legends ranging from Sonny Boy Williamson ("Frogs For Snakes") to Willie Dixon ("Red Rooster"). But it also includes five originals from Spenner. Hes a versatile musician, handling the steel guitar/slide challenges of Elmore James "Bleeding Heart" and "Sunnyland Blues" with aplomb, and has a good voice. These live cuts how an artist enjoying himself, especially on the uptempo numbers like "Diddy Wa Diddy" and his medley of "Deja Vu Rag" and "Slippery Ice Rag." Hot stuff from a cold state!
If you like "over-the-top" slide guitar, you should check out Dave Holes Ticket To Chicago (Alligator). This guitar slinger from Perth, Australia is paying homage to the Windy City with his latest CD of 13 original compositions. Hes backed by a rhythm section and horns from Chicago. This is a high-energy set that blisters the strings. Unfortunately, Holes vocal ability isnt a match for his guitar playing.
--- Mark Miller
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