Blues Bytes

April 2002

line.jpg (778 bytes)

What's New

Charlie Musselwhite The musical diversity of Charlie Musselwhite never ceases to amaze me. So it was no surprise that his new release, One Night In America (Telarc), revisits his Memphis roots with the passionate fire that usually marks his recordings. According to Charlie’s own liner notes, this album was a very personal project with the tunes reflecting the times (both good and bad) and music he grew up with in 1940s-50s Memphis. Musselwhite spreads four originals over the 12 tunes, with the best being “Blues Overtook Me,” a shuffling boogie that is highlighted by some slick guitar picking by Robben Ford and solid soloing from Charlie. A country-flavored cover of Ivory Joe Hunter’s “Cold Grey Light Of Dawn” tells the story of one man’s struggles with the bottle, while “One Time, One Night” depicts the darker side of Americana with a bright and bouncy arrangement offsetting the tragic stories contained within the lyrics. “In Your Darkest Hour” is a slow blues lament that should not be listened to when depressed, but is nonetheless a powerful piece with Musselwhite being accompanied only by himself on harp along with bassist T-Bone Wolk giving the number an eerie feel that sticks in your mind. “Big River” cooks with the hybrid of country and blues that pays tribute to it’s author, Johnny Cash, and is followed by two other Musselwhite originals, the questioning “Ain’t It Time” and the album’s lone instrumental “I’ll Meet You Over There.” Jimmy Reed’s “Ain’t That Lovin You Baby” wraps things up on a jiving upbeat note, with Robben Ford once again contributing some fine guitar work. Charlie and producer Randy Labbe assembled a first class band in the form of G.E Smith on guitars, the previously mentioned T-Bone Wolk on bass, Peter Re on organ and Per Hanson and Michael Jerome sharing drum duties. One Night In America is not the explosive harmonica laced blues album that one might expect from Charlie musselwhite. It is a blues record, of that there is no doubt, but one that tends to make you think a little more about its lyrical content put across with Charlie’s smooth as glass vocal delivery. As always, Musselwhite’s harp chops are in a class by themselves. Only this time out they are not as much in the foreground as on past recordings, but tend to blend more with the rest of the band. Charlie Musselwhite has always been a cutting edge blues musician, daring to go where most blues artists won’t venture as far as blending other styles of music with the blues. This outing is no different with its heavy dose of country thrown into the mix. One Night In America is a beautifully produced album with exquisite performances from all those involved. Personally, I can’t stop playing it!

--- Steve Hinrichsen  

Master guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Anthony Paule has spent the major part of his career in a supporting role. He has backed Earl King, Brownie McGhee, Charlie Musselwhite, Bo Diddley, Johnny Adams and Tommy Ridgely. During the late 80s, Anthony toured the U.S. and Europe with Mark Hummel. Throughout the 90s, he recorded and toured with the Johnny Nocturne Band to critical acclaim and released his debut album. On his second Blue Dot Records release, Hiding In Plain Sight, Paule plays what he loves and resists the temptation to play commercially successful music. In a world full of hybrid blues artists, this splendid 50-minute disc comes as a welcome change. There are 10 songs in all and eight of them are originals that were either penned by Paule or his band members. Since the sound of a B3 was going to be critical, Anthony specifically requested Jim Pugh to produce. Jim even uses his musical talent to boss the piano around on a couple tunes. Anthony’s incredibly fat-toned guitar will put you in a trance on "Goin’ Home." A typical laid-back West Coast feel emanates on "Can’t Get The Time Of Day." Here, Paule melts you with a pool of smooth-flowing notes. In reference to the title track, Anthony states: ‘I love playing slow blues.’ When you play them this well, it is easy to understand why! Ms. Dee handles the vocals for the track and they are supreme. Her expressive voice is jazzy, smoky and sexy. Looking for the blues? Listen to this number and you will find them. "You Sure Drive A Hard Bargain" comes with classic Albert King licks backed by Rob Sudduth’s invigorating horns. "Cutest Kitten" is playful yet contains a dangerous element of surprise. Throughout, Alberto Marsico’s brilliant B3 work fascinates. This includes handling the bass lines on each track. His artistry climaxes on the instrumental "Denise And The Nephew," which he wrote as a tribute to Jack McDuff. The disc’s most interesting songs are a couple of highly theatrical instrumentals. "Town Without Pity" comes straight from the silver screen. The song is surrounded with an intriguing, suspenseful, and mysterious bea, as is "Sy Spy," which can accurately be described as James Bond hits the beach. Much of the credit for this disc goes to Anthony’s wife, Christine. It was her idea to bring Marsico and Gio Rossi (drums) to the U.S. to record the disc. In addition she co-wrote half of the music and was the motivation to convince Paule to cover "Town Without Pity." The CD’s greatest strength comes from its tasteful musical mix. It’s jazzy, jumpy, bluesy, breezy and snappy. Paule’s sassy guitar and Marsico’s groovy B3 will not go unnoticed and neither will the melodramatic instrumentals. Anthony’s soft and unassuming vocals are not as strong as his songwriting and guitar playing abilities. Overall, this CD is a welcome variation from the same old blues. For CDs, booking and information, contact Blue Dot Records, PO Box 320386,
San Francisco, CA 94132-0386, USA phone 415.665.3091, fax 415.665.0262,

Sunny FournierWhen blues began its northbound journey, no one would have imagined the migration would take it to Sudbury, Ontario. Located 235 miles north of Toronto, this mining town is located in the heart of northeastern Ontario. There, Sunny Fournier makes his home. This outstanding singer / songwriter / musician is dedicated to the blues and is known for his passionate performances. For his seventh independent release, My Kind Of Blues, Sunny assembled a cast of Canadian blues all-stars. Each has either been nominated or won awards in the Canadian blues music industry. Recording sessions were held in Toronto and resulted in a 60 minute, 13 track all-original CD. Sunny handles vocals / guitar / harp, and all his vocals are sung with devout conviction. Fournier’s dynamic electric blues open with the instrumental title track. From the first few opening bars, you know you are in for a treat. Ex-B.B. King band bassist, Russell Jackson, and drummer Maureen Brown set a pumping, driving beat that rumbles. From there each musician walks out onto the catwalk and struts their stuff, resulting in musical arousal. Michael Fonfara makes his organ smolder, multi-talented Ken Whiteley tickles his mandolin, while Pat Carey produces great gales from his sax. For the song’s climax, they all diverge into a group jam orgy. "You Don’t Love Me" has a similar structure to Clapton’s unplugged rendition of "Before You Accuse Me." Here, Fournier’s strong vocals are extremely confident while his harp skills are remarkable. "I Feel Free" features a rolling rhythm thanks to the additional horns of Colleen Allen (alto sax) and Chris Whiteley (trumpet). Ken’s slide guitar work is magnificent while Sunny’s harmonica work is compelling on this folky blues-rocker. Ken’s accordion adds flavor from the bayou while Sunny croons like the Clapton of old on "Wish You Were Mine." "Who’s Cheatin’ Who?" is a hopping groove that jumps out of the 60s soul era and forces you to forget life’s problems. A voice of experience shines through on the adult-contemporary "Let Your Heart Be Your Guide." During this inspirational song, Sunny reflects on some good advice that he listened to and put to practice. A festival of horn solos sets the draining mood on "Tired." Here, Fournier proves that he is both a studied and seasoned guitarist. Produced by Ken Whiteley, My Kind Of Blues is the type that burns in your soul. The CD’s mix of material contains everything from straight-up blues to soft pop. Anyone who enjoys electric Chicago-style blues (rich in guitar and harp) will love this disc. Its songwriting, vocals, musicianship and diverse selection of exhilarating material will appeal to all the others. Sure the B.B. King licks may be emulated once too often, but the magic of the band more than compensates. Can this magic be recreated outside of the studio? Listening to this disc sure makes you want to catch Sunny performing live in order to find out. For CDs and information, contact: Sunny Fournier, PO Box 632 Station B, Sudbury, ON Canada P3E 4P8 (705) 670-9333, website:, e-mail:

--- Tim Holek

Fans of Dan Penn's brand of country soul will want to get their hands on Russell Smith's new release, The End Is Not In Sight (Muscle Shoals Records). Though you may not be familiar with the name, anyone who enjoyed the Amazing Rhythm Aces will recognize the voice from their 1974 hit single, "Third Rate Romance," "What I Learned From Loving You" and the title track. In addition, Smith has penned several classic tunes, all featured on this disc, covered by other artists, including John Conlee ("Old School"), Randy Travis ("Look Heart, No Hands"), T. Graham Brown ("Don't Go To Strangers"), Don Williams ("Heartbeat In The Darkness"), and Ricky Van Shelton ("Keep It Between The Lines"). What Smith has in common with these other artists is the fact that they, like Dan Penn, demonstrate what a fine line there is between soul music and country music. As further evidence of this, most of the backing musicians here (a talented cast including Mac McAnally, David Hood, Bobby Whitlock, Spooner Oldham, and Jimmy Hall) have probably played as many soul sessions as they have country sessions. Recorded at the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, this is a relaxed, well-crafted, excellently produced set, featuring Smith's warm, reflective vocals, which emit more soul than a stack of the latest R&B CDs could offer, and his wonderful songwriting. In addition to the songs mentioned above, Smith has also written five new songs, the best of which is "The Road," a sometimes chilling description of life on the road for a musician, and "Jesse", a hard rocking account of the career of Jesse James. Smith's reproductions of his older songs are just great. Even the often covered (three times by the Aces, plus several other artists) "Third Rate Romance" gets a funkier updating, including a New Orleans second line beat. This CD is one of the most soulful releases I've heard in a long time. By all means, if you are a fan of country soul, or country, or soul, or heck, music in general, pick up this disc first chance you get. It's available at your finer music stores or at

David Zollo is a genre-busting artist from Iowa who has produced an interesting CD that highlights his formidable keyboard chops, his songwriting skills, and his gritty vocals. The CD, The Big Night (Trailer Records), is a fine example of blues, rock, folk, alternative, with a little country thrown in as well. The sweltering opener, "While You Undress," reminds you a little of the Rolling Stones. "Eye of the Needle" has some tasty slide guitar. Other highlights include the melancholy title cut, the shuffle "You're Gonna Get What You Wanted," and "Respect Ain't a One Way Street." The band consists of fellow Iowa-based roots musicians like guitarist Bo Ramsey (who contributed the rocker "Get Away") and Zollo's band is also very solid. With its excellent production and great songs and musicianship, this is a fine example of American Roots music from an artist that we will be hearing much more from in the future. Look for it at

--- Graham Clarke

Harry ManxIt's only been eight months since I last reviewed (see August 2001) an album by troubadour / bluesman / citizen of the world Harry Manx. His first ever record, Dog My Cat, was recorded as a demo to help him get a record contract. The folks at Northern Blues liked it so much that they released it "as is," as they say in legal parlance. And now, eight months later, Manx's first real studio effort, Wise and Otherwise, is ready to hit the streets. Given what you've just read, you're expecting this album to be better than the previous one, but that is actually a major understatement. Wise and Otherwise is at least ten times better that the already pretty good Dog my Cat. Here's why. Whereas Manx played his Indian-made veena (a stringed instrument that sounds a bit like a lyre or a harp) on some tracks of his first record, you got the feeling that they were only showcases of his particular talent instead of finished compositions that belonged in the overall feeling of the album. This was to be expected, given the circumstances surrounding the recording. On his new record, Manx is actually striving to produce a statement, and you get the feeling that his choice of instruments (acoustic slide, à la Kelly Joe Phelps, the veena and the harmonica, plus some delicate banjo) is always motivated by the songs themselves, not by a desire to show off his abilities. Witness the ultra-classic "The Thrill is Gone"; his lengthy take on the BB King standard is actually the second part of a medley, preceded by a short instrumental intro called "The Gist of Madhuvanti," and the overall effect of the song is to make you feel (no, succumb to) the "spell" that the singer is singing about. I always thought that the original version of this song, with its swelling violins overcoming you as you gradually come to realize that love is over, was near perfect. Well, Manx totally reinvents the song, and who knows, he might actually improve upon it. (By the way, he does the same with Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" and Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady.") The other area where you can sense a major improvement is in the songwriting. Manx wrote eight of the 12 songs here, in a folky/acoustic blues vein, about love and traveling and poverty, and he has things to say and worth hearing. Pleasant through and through, this is an album with real artistic vision and merit. Any fan of solo acoustic music should enjoy it.

In case you haven't been paying attention, the New York-based Putumayo label has been putting out excellent releases in various categories of what is usually called World Music. Along the way, a couple of compilations dedicated to the music of Louisiana (Zydeco and Louisiana Gumbo) made their way into the catalogue of the company, along with an album showing the relationship between the blues and various types of African music, From Mali to Memphis. While these three compilations have clear ties with the blues, it is its latest compilation, Mississippi Blues, that the small company makes its first entry into pure blues. Apparently, the title of the album is to be understood as "blues arising from the banks of the Mississippi River," and as such the presence of Louisianan Chris Thomas King, as well as that of such pillars of Chicago blues as Junior Wells and Luther Allison, is perfectly defendable … and, if you care to look at the childhood or the influences of these musicians, you could probably have included just about anyone in here. Still, no Muddy Waters, no Charley Patton? And no R.L. Burnside, no Fred McDowell? With only 11 tracks, it's to be predicted that most everyone will find some absence or another to quibble about, so it's better to look at the quality of the performances featured herein. As such, as a sort of very short intro to the blues, the album is good, especially since the tracks chosen to represent the artists are not obvious choices: Luther Allison with a Motown cut from 1969, Ike & Tina Turner with an obscure version of BB King's "3 O'Clock Blues," Bobby Blue Bland tackling the classic "St. James Infirmary," John Lee Hooker with a track apparently recorded for Jewel/Paula called "Baby Don't Do Me Wrong," Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon dueting on "Stewball," etc. In fact, even if you have a sizeable blues collection, you'll discover new cuts here. But you won't know much about them. There is absolutely no info about recording dates, players involved, etc., which is, of course, inexcusable. Because of said lack of info, in addition to the brevity of this collection, it's hard to recommend this album before other fuller, more comprehensive "Various Artists" packages. Still, if you get this as a birthday gift, you'll enjoy it.

In December 1996, our venerated editor Bill Mitchell reviewed Pain & Paradise by the best bar band in the world, The Nighthawks. You might like to know that this long out-of-print record is now being re-released by the little German company that cares, Ruf Records. It might not be the best album of the Nighthawks' lengthy career, but it's mighty enjoyable nonetheless and goes down smoothly with an ice-cold brew.

--- Benoît Brière

Hillibilly Voodoo DollsShades of rockabilly, Southern fried rhythm and blues, zydeco and good old fashion' rock and roll is what you will find on the Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls' second release, Rhythm Disease. The Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls evolved from a series of jam sessions involving some of the top acts in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Following the release of their debut record, "Huba Huba," the Dolls traveled to Belgium to take part in R&B Fest Peer where they shared the stage with the likes of Lonnie Brooks and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones. Rhythm Disease is an eclectic and uncompromising recording. These guys can be serious at times and just plain outlandish at others. With a country twang, "Red Hot Boogie Woogie" kicks off the disc, daring the listener to stay in their seat. Elements of zydeco manifest on "Sometimes You Don't Know Me," while the cool sound of surf rock guitar sets in motion "Woman Trouble," which features a haunting electric piano solo. Although an uptempo and charming atmosphere prevails throughout most of the disc, the band shows a compassionate side on the heartrending love song "The Last Thing on My Mind." The CD climaxes with the Wailer-esque instrumental "Bam," which features samples of a street hustler offering everything from women to weed. With the sophistication of such artists as The Band, fused with the get-up-and-go of Eddie Cochran and the absurdity of The Cramps, Rhythm Disease is amusing, yet cultivated, and dreadfully fun.

Blues Orbiters are just babes in the Seattle blues scene but are already establishing themselves a top draw in the rainy Emerald City. Ranging in styles from traditional to contemporary blues, straight-ahead good time blues is what they offer up on their impressive debut, Blast Off. Maybe it's the vintage instruments and amps that give this relatively new band such a traditional sound. Fans of the likes of T-Bone Walker and Albert King to Duane Allman and Peter Green give them many wells to draw from. Whatever the case may be, it works for this quintet who consists of Jeff "White Chocolate" Hayes on drums, vocals and lyricist, Peter Norris on rhythm guitar; Rodger "The Immortal" Smith, keeping the tempo flowing on his Fender Jazz bass, Brian Lee on Telecaster and harp, and Jim Walls adding the final touch with his vintage sax. Blast Off commences with a bit of wittiness by means of a tasty shuffle. "Love Makes You Fat" is lyrically amusing and musically zesty. "Somedays" is another funky shuffle, chockfull of tight solos from Brian Lee on harmonica and guitar while Jim Walls unleashes on sax. Comprised of mostly original material, Blues Orbiters select their covers carefully and pay homage to another Northwest blues man, Robert Cray, on a pleasing version of "Phone Booth." Combining jazz guitar with a tropical rhythm, the Orbiters slow it down a notch on "A Test Of Time." Brian Lee shows off his slide guitar technique on the instrumental mid-tempo shuffle "Rhumba Boogie Blues." The classic "T-Bone Shuffle," with respect to the original recording, is a superb methodology to conclude this record. Combining a sense of humor, great musicianship and a carefree attitude, Blast Off is the freshest sound to come out of the Seattle area so far this year.

Paul Wood From recording and touring with the late John Lee Hooker Coast to Coast Blues Band, to opening for the likes of James Brown, Albert Collins and Albert King, Paul Wood is a seasoned veteran who has been playing the blues for over three decades. The Memphis-based guitar player steps out from the shadows of studio musician / producer on his second solo release, Blues Is My Business (Lucy Records / BMI). Originally from Oakland, California, Paul Wood picked up his first guitar at age 11. While his initial influences were rockers George Harrison, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, Wood began digging deeper and discovered that his childhood heroes had been inspired by legendary blues greats such as Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters. At age 20, the young guitar player was in the studio with John Lee Hooker and suddenly found himself in high demand, recording with Van Morrison, Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite. In addition to recording, Paul Wood has also been called upon to produce for such artists as Buddy Guy and Jonny Lang. Blues Is My Business, like his first release, Bridgeburner, successfully unites Wood's early rock influences with his later blues endeavors, creating an evenhanded and diverse recording. With tight horn arrangements, the disc opens with a straight-ahead guitar driven blues-rock tune "She Don't Play By The Rules," where Paul Wood's intense guitar riffs and immaculate solos are showcased. Woods dabbles with the smooth sound of Chicago blues on "Crying Won't Help Ya" and "Don't Call Me." With an Albert Collins-like snap, the title track is sharp and unwavering. The recording wraps up with the Delta acoustic "The Mojo Man," with lyrics that not only pay homage to the blues legends that inspired him but also paints a self-portrait of the blues man's life, loves and travels. Blues Is My Business is already receiving heavy international airplay and crossover potential is likely for this gifted guitarist / vocalist / songwriter. This should come as no surprise as Paul Wood and producer Jack Holder deliver a topnotch and varied recording.

--- Tony Engelhart

Quinn Golden I favorably reviewed Quinn Golden's last release in the April 2001 issue of Blues Bytes. His new release, On Q, manages to inch by that previous one as the best work he has done so far for Ecko Records. That earlier release got a lot of airplay with "A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' " and "Dance Party," and this new release reprises that latter tune with "Dance Party 2002" and sets the tone for this excellent new release. It is a CD that will get lots of club play, as most of the songs would be considered dance tracks with the exceptions being "You're My Angel" and the funny "Ketchup On My Pants," where Quinn pleads that it was ketchup not lipstick on his pants. He is joined on this track by Sheba Potts-Wright (who has her own fine CD out on Ecko). My own favorite track is the upbeat "I Can't Give It Up," and my pick as this CD's "hit," although the ketchup song should get some airplay.  This release follows the pattern established by this fine Memphis label of presenting their artists in a contemporary but very soulful southern manner. It is quite different than the mature contemporary soul releases coming out of L.A. or N.Y. This go around the sound is enhanced by the addition of Jim Spake on tenor sax and Allen Averyheart on alto sax. Please, if we could just eliminate the drum programming and give us a real live drummer, we'll be even more grateful. A happy fun release, and one you'll enjoy if you don't expect anything too deep. Visit Ecko records at to learn about all their artists and releases.

--- Alan Shutro

A new young talent on the blues scene, Lisa Bourne, originally hails from New Orleans, but now calls California home. She shows the many influences of her hometown on her debut album, Bluehipnotik (JSP Records). Ms. Bourne is backed by the regular group of L.A. musicians used by producer Jimmy Morello, and they help make this CD a success, especially the stellar guitar work of Kirk Fletcher and John Marx. Not to be overlooked are the two sax players, Jonny Viau and Troy Jennings, and the rhythm section of bassist Rick Reed and drummer Paul Fasulo. Everyone gets to shine on the opening jump blues, "He's Trouble," written by Morello (like all of the other cuts on Bluehipnotik). I especially like Bourne's sassy vocals here. The guitar playing of Fletcher highlights the West Coast shuffle "I'm Looking." Bourne does a good Tina Turner imitation when she tells her man to "Just Leave." Also good is the scat singing she does on the Louis Jordan-esque jump tune, "Let Me Fly." The slow blues "Worry Mind" again puts the guitar players in the spotlight, while the sax boys get to show their stuff on the funky blues of "Low Down Maid." While Bourne will continue to mature as a singer with experience, Bluehipnotik is a good start. And it's always good to hear the increasingly excellent guitar work of Fletcher and songwriting of Morello.Big Bad Love soundtrack

Judging from the reviews of the recent independent film, Big Bad Love, it appears to be a relatively mediocre movie. But if you judge the film solely on its music soundtrack, Big Bad Love would be up for an Academy Award. I can't think of many films that have included so many great songs, almost all of them raw Mississippi Delta blues. Many of the performers also appeared in the film, although I've yet to see the movie to confirm this fact. The soundtrack CD on Nonesuch Records kicks off with a short slide guitar instrumental from Kenny Brown, a slow number titled "Boxcar Blues." This cut sets the tone for the rest of the disc, with plenty of raw and raucous back porch blues. R.L. Burnside contributes two very different cuts. The first is a live number, "Come On In," recorded at the Rhythm Room in Phoenix, presenting the Mississippi septuagenarian at his best --- performing in front of a packed house of adoring fans.  The second cut is very different, as R.L. and a celebrity cast contribute to a cool version of Bob Dylan's "Everything Is Broken." Buddy Guy plays a guitar solo and James Cotton adds blues harmonica on this number, while the famous Hodges brothers of Memphis make up the rhythm section. There's one song from the late Junior Kimbrough, "Junior's Place," recorded in 1996. It's a typical raw, hypnotic Mississippi Delta blues like Kimbrough played many, many times at his juke joint in Chulahoma. Contributing to the grimness of this movie are a couple of cuts from Tom Waits, with the better being a typical Waits-style blues, "Long Way Home," given a different sound with the addition of French horn accompaniment. Other notable performers include Mississippi Delta singers, Asie Payton ("I Love You"), the great T-Model Ford (the high energy "She Asked Me So I Told Her") and Robert Belfour ("My Baby's Gone," with acoustic guitar from Belfour). Another notable name on the disc is Steve Earle, who does a John Prine-style vocal number backed by Peter Rowan on guitar, Norman Blake on dobro and Roy Huskey on acoustic bass. Since I apparently missed out on this movie when it made its short appearance in my town, I'll have to wait until it reaches cable. Until then, the soundtrack album will keep me satisfied.

--- Bill Mitchell

Unbeknownst to me Denver, Colorado has a very active jazz/blues community. One of its true practitioners in the area of soulful-fired blues is one James Van Buren, celebrating 40 years in the business. VanBuren¹s latest offering (his ninth), The Best of James Van Buren's Blues (Van Buren Records and Tapes), takes the listener through the history of Van Buren's musical accomplishments with classic live versions of his favorite songs. Van Buren's sometimes raspy vocals have an interesting story telling aspect that fits in perfectly with his tune selections. Van Buren has also assembled a first rate collection of musicians from the Denver area, including some fine guitar playing by the likes of Sammy Mayfield on the boogie blues of "House of Blues Shuffle" and the slow cooker "Whatever Happened to the Blues." The horn section featuring Billy Tolles livens up "Virus Called The Blues." The production values are superior considering every tune was recorded live over a period of time. You will enjoy this jazz singer's take on the blues.

--- Bruce Coen

Universal Music Company, the world's largest music conglomerate, continues to reissue classic recordings from its bottomless vaults, as outlined at The MCA-Chess segment of this concern now puts out the classic blues album series, The Real Folk Blues and More Real Folk Blues, combined onto four individual CDs separately representing some of the best recordings made by Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin' Wolf. These records originally came out during the folk blues popularization period of the '60s. The Real Folk Blues was issued in 1966 and a More Real Folk Blues in 1967. (The Hooker More Real Folk Blues album was not discovered and released until 1991). Each pair of albums for each artist are now digitally remastered but conveniently combined onto one CD, with original artwork and liner notes plus a new historical essay. The four MCA/Chess/UME albums are the latest additions to Blues Classics Remastered & Revisited, a major UME series of the most significant and popular blues albums in history. Howlin' Wolf's Real Folk Blues marks him as the original bad boy of this blues resurgence period, with such rugged anthems as "Killing Floor," "Tail Dragger" and "I'm The Wolf." The sound of this giant man and his big-sounding Hohner harmonica still reverberates today. The veteran bluesman provides song from as far back as 1956 ("The Natchez Burnin'") to latter material like 1965's "Sittin' On Top Of The World" here. The flashback is the focus on More Real Folk Blues moving chronologically from 1953 Memphis recordings made before Wolf's move to Chicago to 1956 tracks from 1955 for an overview rarities collection from the 300-pound blues master. Muddy Waters' Real Folk Blues similarly looks back on the career of a man that was a legendary blues performer by that time. This time we skip all the way back the '40s, for example "Canary Woman" (1947) on up to some of this current releases, like "The Same Thing" (1964). This is a diptych picture of Waters' career up to then. Half the recordings come from 1947-1950 and the rest from 1955 ("Mannish Boy") to 1964. This gives us a portrait of the man as rural blues troubadour and later urban blues innovator. As with Howlin' Wolf's album, More Real Folk Blues looks at the nascent beginnings of Waters' career. We hear material from 1948-1952 plotting the ascendancy of Muddy Waters from a slide guitarist with bass accompaniment on the 1948 tracks to the fuller band sound of the early fifties. This later format used by Muddy became a rock trio combo, creating the urban blues genre. Sonny Boy Williamson, acknowledged harmonica king, reigns supreme though his Real Folk Blues album. Praised by Willie Dixon as "one of the most amazing persons I have ever known," the seminal harp master inspired everyone from Junior Wells to James Cotton. Williamson was the only member of this Mount Rushmore of blues artists already deceased when these recordings were issued. 10 of the 12 tracks on The Real Folk Blues are from 1960-1963 and represent the culmination of the artist's career --- melodic, emotional, song-oriented rootsy blues. Though Williamson had been recording for Chess since 1955, More Real Folk Blues again targets the last few years, 1960-1964, featuring guitarist Buddy Guy on Dixon's "Close To Me" as well as "Decoration Day," "Trying To Get Back On My Feet" and more. The signature "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" and such memorable offerings as "Let's Go Out Tonight" mark John Lee Hooker's Real Folk Blues collection. Already owning a thoroughly incorporated formula for the blues by this time, Hooker laid down all of the 18 tracks on both albums in one productive 1965 session. His idiosyncratic rhythms, as on the free-form versification in "Let's Go Out Tonight" and the simple, primal rhythms echoing from his boot-stomp days make these albums a cohesive document when packaged together and a still vital, thumping, visceral collection of tough-boogie blues.

Pieces & Bits (Inakustik/MVD) is a DVD overview of Johnny Winter's four-decade career made personal by photos take by his wife and Winter's own verbal recollections. (These sometimes are distractingly juxtaposed with paragraphs of unrelated on-screen text.) There are several other luminaries performing with Winter. Among them are B.B. King, who recalls their first meeting, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, a frantic Edgar Winter and more. The first of several vintage video clips is both blurry looking and muddy sounding, but the rest of the vault films are amazingly crisp and crystalline soundings. Songs include "Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo," "Mannish Boy," and "Highway 61 Revisited," performed with the Bob Dylan Celebration Band.

Through the '70s piano was an anchor instrument in combos performing popular rock. Quite often, Chuck Leavell was there, in the Allman Brothers Band, Eric Clapton, Rolling Stones and more. Bands of this stripe were often rooted in the blues and grew out of blues cover outfits. Forever Blue: Solo Piano (Everygreen Records) is Leavell's solo blues instrumental piano album and is a testament to his talent and the rootsy sounds that runs through the veins of time tested rock and pop.

On National Antiseptic (Mammoth), James Mathus & His Knockdown Socety mixes bubbling swamp boogie like "Call Your Dawgs Off" with ominous sounding Delta blues like the mysterious "Take a Ride with Me." A founding member of Squirrel Nut Zippers, Mathus invites us into a backwoods juke joint where aboriginal rock forms amalgamate in corn liquor-fueled juke joint laboratories. Running a spectrum of sounds that sprung up along the Mississippi, James Mathus rearranges the building blocks of American music into a raw and ready rural Southern party disc, with a big electric sound that Buddy Guy wanted to capture when he had Mathus record on Sweet Tea.

--- Tom "Tearaway" Schulte

[Pick Hit][What's New][Surprise][Flashback][Feedback][Back Issues][Home Page]

The Blues Bytes Web Site has been developed by Blue Night Productions. For more info, send an e-mail.

The Blues Bytes URL...  
Revised: April 22, 2002 - Version 1.02
All contents Copyright © 2002, Blue Night Productions. All rights reserved.