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August 2000

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Order these featured CDs today:

Don Wise

Sy Klopps

Chris Smither

The Bluesville Years, Volume 11

The Bluesville Years, Volume 12

Taj Mahal

Canned Heat

Willie Cobbs

Rod Price

Duke Robillard

Bill Coday

Mosley & Johnson

Earwig Records 20th Anniversary Collection

Carl Weathersby

David Raitt & Jimmy Thackery






What's New

Don Wise - On The Verge of SurvivalSometimes my favorite albums come from the most unlikely sources. Don Wise's On The Verge of Survival (Horn O'Copia) is a good example, as this gem from Delbert McClinton's sax man has already earned a spot on my Top 10 list for the year. Wise recruited a host of his Texas music buddies to appear on the CD, and the result is a delightful blend of soulful, funky, and jazzy blues. The highlight of the disc is a version of "Deep In The Heart of Texas," with co-vocals from McClinton, Marcia Ball and Terry McBride. This Lone Star classic is given more of a soulful, gospel treatment here. The producers must really have liked the song, as they did a reprise at the end of the CD that is not drastically different from the first rendition, making this last version a little redundant. The opening cut, "That Same Mistake Again," is a catchy jazz shuffle featuring pleasant vocals from San Antonian Chris Holzhaus and nice B-3 work from Kevin McKendree. The latter really gets to shine with a red hot solo on the instrumental number "Sanc-T-Flied." Another standout is the East Coast Beach Music number "Blown By The Breeze," with strong soul singing from George Hawkins Jr. It's always a treat to have another Marcia Ball song, and here she honors us with a Wise original, "Pepper In His Pocket," a New Orleans-style number with some very good piano. Finally, I'd be remiss in not mentioning Wise's stellar saxophone work, which he best demonstrates on the jumpin' Junior Walker instrumental "Mutiny." On The Verge of Survival is a CD to which I will listen many times ... and so should you. For more info, check out Don Wise's web site at

San Francisco-based Sy Klopps is the alter ego of rock manager Herbie Herbert, a band which started as a mythical creation among Bay Area music insiders. But in the last six years Herbert has put all of his energy into the band, with his latest album, Berkeley Soul (Bullseye Blues & Jazz), now out. Sy Klopps is backed by a talented and tight band, although the sound comes across as a little too slick and packaged at times. But that doesn't mean that it's not fun! The opening cut, "Running Blue," is dominated by the big horn section. Sy Klopps' voice is decent, but not as soulful and powerful as the music and accompaniment warrants. He's better suited for singing straight blues, such as on the album's closing cut, the blues shuffle "Appetite For Love" or "Cryin' For My Baby." "You Gotta Move" is a good New Orleans-style number with excellent piano work, presumably from Herman Eberitzsch. Berkeley Soul is not the disc to play for your blues purist friends, but will be well-received at your next house party.

Every new Chris Smither CD is cause for happiness at my house. I love everything about this man's music ... his wry, topical songwriting, his rich vocals, and his exquisite guitar playing. As the title implies, Live As I'll Ever Be (Hightone) captures Smither in eight different concerts from 1996 to 1999. "No Love Today" was the highlight from his last studio release, Drive You Home Again (reviewed June '99), and the live version here is just as wonderful. There's also a good rendition of a Smither standard, "Up On The Lowdown." For a good example of Smither's world class fretwork, be sure to check out the pleasant slow number "Small Revelations." This song is in sharp contrast to the much more intense blues of "Dust My Broom." Live As I'll Ever Be is highly recommended for lovers of acoustic music.

If you like "over the top," high energy vocals, à la Janis Joplin, or hard rockin' soul blues, then be sure to search out Rebel Chile (Equinox) from L.A.-based Francesca & The Flames. Without a doubt, the strongest cut here is the catchy soul number "Doctor," with powerful soaring vocals from Francesca Capasso. I suspect that this one is considered her signature song, as she just puts so much more feeling and emotion into it. Another favorite is the slow blues "Fight." Don't misunderstand me ... this isn't a band that's ready for prime time yet. But the better numbers from Rebel Chile show that Francesca has a future in the music business.

Another Left Coast band falling in the same category is Stone, with their rock/blues album Here Before (SX3 Music). I had to get pretty far into the CD before actually finding something I considered a blues.  One song, a rather creative, uptempo version of "Further On Up The Road," stands out among the 14 cuts on this disc. The other blues numbers here are just a little too rocked out for my tastes.

The easy way out would be to go along with the rest of the music press and proclaim Bernard Allison as the newest blues star in the universe. Instead, I'll go where other reviewers fear to tread and risk being labeled as the dreaded "blues purist." The sound on Allison's Across The Water (Tone-Cool) is just a little too "non-bluesy" to appeal to me, and I just didn't find this CD to be very interesting. It's more rock and funk than blues ... not that there's always anything wrong with that. I still think that Allison's father, the late Luther Allison, was an incredible performer, both in the studio and in person. The younger Allison's music doesn't have the same emotional depth, and several of the songs here are downright annoying, like the rocked out title cut and the schmaltzy "Work It Out." There is some decent music to be found on Across The Water, such as the funky blues "I Wanna Get You Back." And Allison is a good guitarist, showing off his Stevie Ray licks on "I've Been Down." Your own opinion of this album will depend on your personal tastes in blues. But I'll pass on it.

Fantasy Records has put out two more re-issues in their ongoing The Bluesville Years series. Of the two CDs covering mostly material from the 1960s, I prefer Volume 11, subtitled Blues Is A Heart's Sorrow. Highlighting this collection are two Roosevelt Sykes cuts, with his usual great vocals on "Selfish Woman" and some fine organ playing on "I Hate To Be Alone." I still consider Sunnyland Slim to be one of the coolest cats who ever lived, and his "Everytime I Get To Drinking" is included here. Jimmy Witherspoon contributes a stellar slow blues, "I'll Go On Living," with a great trumpet solo from Bobby Bryant. Another favorite is Mildred Anderson's booming vocal "I'm Gettin' Long Alright." Shirley Scott's organ accompaniment is not to be missed on this number. Volume 12, subtitled Jump, Jumpin' The Blues is actually a little more rural in it's sound, especially with the inclusion of artists like Sonny Terry, K.C. Douglas and Lightnin' Hopkins (the latter doing a fun version of "Wine Spodee-O-Dee"). Memphis Willie B. plays nice finger pickin' acoustic guitar on "Good Potatoes." Jimmy Witherspoon returns on this collection, and the best of his three songs is the hoppin' boogie woogie of "Drinking Beer." All of the Bluesville anthologies are top notch, and these latest volumes are no exception.

--- Bill Mitchell

Taj Mahal - LiveThere are many sides to Taj Mahal. There is the World Music lover, who put out albums of Jamaican, Hawaiian and more recently Malian music (in the latter case, the excellent Kulanjan of last year, in collaboration with Toumani Diabate). There is also the film score writer, the award-winning composer of children's albums, and the bluesman, of course, sometimes acoustic, sometimes electric, always showing a healthy respect for R&B. So it's probably impossible to have one Taj Mahal CD that truly gives a complete picture of this fascinating artist. His latest, Taj Mahal & The Phantom Blues Band's Shoutin' in Key (Live), on Hannibal Records, purports to give the listener a feeling for the experience of seeing Taj-the-bluesman live. (It was recorded at The Mint in Los Angeles in 1998.) As usual, the artist born Henry St. Claire Fredericks proves to be a master of the laid-back, feel-good groove, helped by a great band (including the gently funky rhythm section of Larry Fulcher and Tony Braunagel and the soulful horns of Joe Sublett and Darrell Leonard). Strangely enough, given the recording date, there are no songs from the last two, extremely successful blues albums of Taj, Phantom Blues and Señor Blues. Rather, the set is mostly centered on his much-older material, from the 60s and 70s, stuff like “Corrina,” “Leavin' Trunk,” “EZ Rider” and “Going Up to the Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue” (which is listed on the sleeve as “Mail Box Blues”), not significantly different from the original recordings. There are only two little reminders of Taj's interest in world music. “Rain from the Sky” is a sort of reggae ballad, which Taj informs us is known and played by every musician in Jamaica, and there is a jazzy version of “Sentidos Dulce”, sounding much less “Brazilian” than the original (found on the soundtrack to the film “Brothers”). All in all, this is a pleasant, if totally dispensable, recording, designed to quench the thirst of Taj-music until his next blues studio project sees the light of day. Old-time fans will find very little that is new here, but new fans who have never seen Taj Mahal will have an idea of what they're missing.

In a certain way, Canned Heat's latest double album, called The Boogie House Tapes, 1967-1976 (Ruf Records), aims in the exactly opposite direction. These archival tracks, culled from live shows, studio outtakes, radio and television appearances, will be considered by die-hard fans to be absolutely essential, while the casual tourist in Boogie Country is better advised to stick to a "Best Of" collection. The story behind this release goes back to the early 70s. The classic group of Canned Heat tours Europe to great success, providing a spark, among other things, for the lifetime love of boogie music of one Walter De Paduwa, aka Dr. Boogie, who turns his house into a sort of museum (“The Boogie House”, in Belgium) dedicated to his beloved music. Canned Heat figures prominently in his collection, and at some point he befriended the band members, who gave him a few studio outtakes to add to his large collection of taped shows and other rare stuff. It's this material that makes up this offering, which means that a) it's all brand new, previously unreleased, and b) its sound quality varies from downright atrocious to roughly acceptable. (Hence the suggestion to casual fans to look elsewhere for a survey of this most glorious period in Canned Heat's existence.) But if you're a big fan, boy will you be happy! Among the treats, you'll find a couple of rare covers (like “Sleepin' in the Ground” by Sammy Myers, from way before his association with Anson Funderburgh), a version of “Chicago Bound” with Magic Dick sitting in on harp, and two early De La Parra compositions, recorded in 1967 (maybe at the same sessions that produced “On the Road Again”, which by my calculations were the first to feature the Mexican-born drummer.) Some of Canned Heat classic hits are also included. Most striking is the late 1971 version of “Going Up the Country," with the flute and voice of the deceased Alan Wilson replaced by the stinging guitar of Henry Vestine and the howl of Bob “Bear” Hite, respectively. It's also fun to hear the band cram “On the Road Again“ (almost 5 minutes on the original version) into the 2 minutes (!!) allowed by the producers of the TV show “Playboy after Dark.” As Fito De La Parra says in the liner notes, it's the last collection of Canned Heat music from the Bob Hite era we are likely to hear, as the band knows of no other tapes in existence. As such, it's a historically relevant record.

--- Benoît Brière

Big Jack Johnson is a force of nature on his new CD, Roots Stew (M.C. Records). He's not just a good guitarist, he's a ferocious guitarist. When he pays tribute to Elmore James on "Jump For Joy," with its "Shake Your Money Maker" motif, he steps decisively out of the great rhythm player tag he's been saddled with for too long and lets loose with sizzling lines that Dave Hole would fight for. Following "Hummingbird," which is an energized "King Bee" in disguise, he comes back with a slide guitar rendition of "Since I Lost My Baby" that's just "this" close to being slack keyed. On "Cherry Tree," he plays mandolin to make Yank Rachell proud, and talks plenty stuff about eating cherry pie and such. Then comes the blistering deep soul-drenched. "Late Night With Jack," just to make the point, apparently, that he's adept at many styles and enjoys them all. "Too Many Rats" has lines reminiscent of Albert Collins and Duane Allman. As with "Cherry Pie," he demonstrates his penchant for good old double entendre "dirty" blues. The acoustic work on "Beale Street" is gorgeous, the shuffle of "I'm Trying To Do All I Can" is infectious, and "I Wanna Go Home," with Wild Child Butler on harp, is a sort of Piedmont/Delta visits-the-city piece. His paean to his friend Frank Frost on "So Long Frank Frost" is a wonderful closer and pays tribute to his fellow Jelly Roll King as well as to other fallen giants of the blues. Makes one stop to consider that there aren't many players coming up who are capable of filling those big musical shoes. Big Jack Johnson's will be monsters.

--- Mark E. Gallo

 Willie Cobbs is another one of those overlooked blues artists that has recently been "rediscovered." He began his career perfecting his harp chops with masters Little Walter and Eddie Boyd on Maxwell Street over fifty years ago. Willie finally gained prominence for writing and performing the hit "You Don't Love Me" in 1960, which has since been covered by just about everyone with a name who has ever recorded a blues album. However the rest of the 60s, along with the 70s and 80s saw only a handful of obscure singles recorded mainly for his own labels. Up until the release of his first full length album, 1994's Down To Earth, Cobbs operated juke joints in both his native Arkansas and Mississippi, while occasionally sitting in on some sessions here and there. Mr. Cobbs is pushing 70 years old now, and his latest release Jukin' (Bullseye Blues & Jazz),  his third as a leader, is smothered in the sounds of soulful Memphis blues thanks to producer Willie Mitchell whose work with Al Green, Otis Clay, Ann Peebles and every other great voice in 60s and 70s Memphis is legendary. Along for the ride on this superbly produced album are the equally legendary Hodges brothers of Hi Records fame. Teenie, Leroy, Charlie and Fred on guitars, bass, piano and organ respectively, plus Howard Grimes on drums complete this all star outfit. The CD opens with Cobb's funky shuffling tribute to "Jukin'," (a down home southern tradition that isn't created but inherited) with Willie quickly establishing the take charge, shouting, happy, vocal style and harp chops that are heard throughout this disc. Cobbs pays tribute to his friend and mentor Little Walter with a stunning Chicago meets Memphis rendition of "Mean Old World" that blends the two worlds into pure ear candy for the listener. The rolling beat of "Poison Ivy," followed by the blaring horn and harp arrangements of  the classic "Reconsider Baby," make these two numbers, along with "You're So Fine," classic juke joint dance floor material. Joining Willie for a two harmonica blitz on a three alarm fire version of "Five Long Years" is John Weston, a former member of Cobb's band. The two are known throughout the Memphis area for their dual harp attack. The two Willies, Cobbs and producer Mitchell, have joined forces to create a modern day blues classic that is in essence a juke joint party the likes of which haven't been heard in some time now. So invite some friends over, kick off your shoes, turn up the volume, and have yourself a Jukin' good time with this one from one of the blues' rediscovered treasures.
After listening to the latest release from Rod Price, Open (Burnside Records), I can't help but imagine the great blues albums that the world might have been blessed with had he not joined the rock-based but very bluesy Foghat in the early 70's. I tend to think they would have been very much in the same vein as Open, a very down to earth, raw, gut-busting, emotionally charged study in the art of red hot slide guitar. This is a wonderfully electric album, folks. And I do mean electric! Of the ten numbers here, only one is an original work. But that's quite alright, the covers are so well done with original arrangements and sparkling enthusiasm that you hardly notice that you may have heard them a few times before. Borrowing material from some of the masters of the blues --- Johnson, Williamson, Harpo, Muddy and, of course, the Wolf --- this release has the markings of a cross between a tribute album to those fine aforementioned names and an album that Rod always had the desire to do. (I'd be curious to know which exactly). The instrumental treatment of "Sitting On Top Of The World" contains a blasting guitar solo with notes so searingly high that possibly only dogs might be able to hear them is at the forefront of the covers. A shuffling, boogying version of "Key To the Highway," along with "Long Distance Call" and "Got Love If You Want It," are the other not to be missed selections. The one original piece, "Dynaflite," is the instrumental closer to this hard driving release, and is a high energy, jamming workout for the entire band. Sitting in with Rod, blowing a piercing  harp and covering lead vocals with a growling intensity, is Shakey Vick, a gentleman of whose band, Shakey Vick's Big City Blues Band, Price was a member in England before joining Foghat. Reuniting after 30 years, you can hear the chemistry they had working together again for these sessions. Kinney Landrum is also onboard on keyboards along with John O' Reilley on skins and Bruno Ravel and producer Tom Dawes sharing bass duties. Rod Price is without a doubt one of the finest slidemen out there today, and this release proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt. The one extremely minor complaint I had with this album was it was over too quickly! I personally wanted to hear a lot more of a truly excellent effort, and look forward to Price's next release with the great big grin this one has left on my face. Slide on over to your nearest music outlet and give this one a very serious listen.

Whenever Duke Robillard releases a new album the first thought that comes to mind is usually, "What's he going to do this time around?" The answer to that is simple. Everything! Hot on the heels of his excellent release, Conversations In Swing Guitar, with Herb Ellis, Explorer (Shanachie) is the aptly titled release from one of the most versatile guitar players on the scene these days. 8 of the twelve tunes are original pieces, with Robillard sharing writing credits on most of those. With his usual clean guitar licks and ' twinkle in the eye' vocals, Duke doesn't stick to any one particular motif on this album, choosing instead to include a smattering of different styles. Explorer kicks off with "Male Magnet" and "Just Between Me And You," two numbers featuring a Memphis style dual sax attack from the very funky horns of Doug James and Sax Gordon Beadle. The Cajun flavored "Sayin' Don't Make It So" has some superior acoustic guitar runs, joining forces with the crying harp of Jerry Portnoy for a down home sorta feel, while "Jumpin' With Duke," along with "Brand New Fool," offer the type of swinging shuffles reminiscent to his days as a co-founder of Roomful Of Blues, a band that dared to be different, as has Robillard throughout his recording career. A Jerry Portnoy composition, "Time Is Short," closes this eclectic CD with the bluesiest number of the collection, reflecting on the inevitable quick passage of time and how it affects one's outlook on the world. What is so very interesting about Duke is his consistent ability to make every release he puts out sound new and different without abandoning his deep roots in the blues. Explorer is a very satisfying release from an artist that gives 100% percent every time he records.

 --- Steve Hinrichsen

First, kudos to Bill Coday and Ecko Records for the first tribute to the late Johnnie Taylor that I am aware of. Memories is a fitting tribute to one of the finest singers we have had the pleasure of enjoying all these years. Bill Coday has been recording and performing for more than 25 years. He began his career singing in juke joints with Son Seals' band. He moved to Chicago in 1961 and performed under the name of Chicago Willie. In 1971 he had a big hit (under his own name) with a song penned by Denise LaSalle called "Get Your Lie Straight." The success of that record enabled him to appear for many years as LaSalle's opening act. This is his fourth release for Ecko Records. As fine as the track "We're Gonna Miss You Johnnie" is, did we really need an extended version (which only adds 30 seconds to the first track) ending the CD? In addition to that duplication, this release also includes several cuts off his earlier Ecko Releases. If you already have those, you are not getting a lot of new material this time around. The tribute is fine, though.

Mosley and Johnson - Juke JointWhat a pleasant surprise, and not at all what I expected. Juke Joint from Mosley & Johnson is more bluesy than the average Malaco release, which mostly fall into the Soul/Blues category. I'm sure this release will still appeal to those fans and pick up a few blues purists along the way. Sadly, this too is a tribute album of sorts (see my Bill Coday review), as Bob Johnson of this great singing and songwriting team passed away several months ago. This release was dedicated to him. Mosley & Johnson were a great team primarily as song writers, performers and recording artists. Their songs appeared on many different performer's albums over the last 20 years. They released a few albums in the early 80s on the Muscle Shoals Records label, but seemed to derive their biggest success as songwriters. It's a pity that they didn't record more of their own songs over the years, since the singing on this release is wonderful. It's soulful and moving. The opening track, "Going To Mississippi," is a blues shuffle in the "Going To Chicago" vein, but not a copy of that old warhorse. The wonderful slow blues "Movin' My Outside Woman In" documents all the reasons leading up to moving his inside woman out and his outside woman in. Who said only ball teams make player moves? Other songs like "I Want My Baby Back" (I wonder if it's the one he just moved out) and "Let's Part As Friends" all maintain the high quality of this release. No fillers here. Excellent singing and a wonderful collection of memorable tunes makes this a winner in every respect. Highly recommended.

--- Alan Shutro

Ohio-based Mr. Downchild has released his first solo effort, Behind The Sun (Mascita Music), which features 11 original tracks, recorded live in the studio.  Mr. Downchild, whose first release featured the legendary Robert Lockwood Jr., is a gifted musician on both guitar and harp.  He is also a fine songwriter, penning tunes related to common blues themes, but avoiding the usual clichés.  The songs are a mixture of acoustic and electric tracks, with Mr. Downchild playing all instruments.  He is equally comfortable in either style, but he really shines on the Delta blues numbers.  His guitar work is stunning throughout the disc, as is his harp work, and he has a gritty, highly effective vocal style.  Highlights include the opening cut, “Angel On My Shoulder,” “Bad Uncle Blues,” the beautiful instrumental “On My Way Back Home,” the Jimmy Reed-based “Workin’ For The Boss,” the rollicking “Shoestring Boogie,” and the title cut, a moody instrumental with some great chromatic harmonica.  I was unfamiliar with Mr. Downchild’s previous releases, but this CD made me curious about them.  This is a solid CD of solo blues from a solid musician who makes no missteps.  It’s available from Miscita Music, P. O. Box 21334, South Euclid, OH  44121.

For many years in Chicago, Earwig has been the other blues record label, releasing consistently fine blues and building a great catalog.  Earwig founder and producer Michael Frank is an alumnus of Robert Koester’s Jazz Record Mart, working there as a sales clerk (as did Alligator’s Bruce Iglauer, Blind Pig’s Jerry DelGiudice, Flying Fish’s Bruce Kaplan, Paul Butterfield, and Charlie Musselwhite ... not a bad roster).  Frank, who also manages Honeyboy Edwards, has assembled 31 tracks (2 CDs) for his budget-priced sampler The Earwig Records 20th Anniversary Collection.  Some of the more familiar artists featured here are Edwards (with one Library of Congress Recording from the 40s and a “modern” track with Carey Bell), The Jelly Roll Kings (the label’s first release), Big Jack Johnson (two tracks), Frank Frost (whose “Gonna Put Her Down” is both traditional and modern at the same time), Sunnyland Slim, Jimmy Dawkins (from his outstanding “comeback” release Kant Sheck Dees Bluze), Louisiana Red, and John Primer (whose “Lawhorn Special” is a highlight).  One thing Frank has done, however, is produce excellent releases from many under recorded, but equally talented, artists.  Among those finds are songs by Floyd Jones (backed by Edwards and Sunnyland), Jim Brewer, Louis Myers, Lester Davenport, Aron Burton, Lovie Lee (backed by Carey and Lurrie Bell), Willie Anderson, Big Leon Brooks, and Johnny “Yard Dog” Jones.  The list of musicians providing support on these tracks reads like a Who’s Who of Chicago Blues.  Accompanying these two CDs is a booklet of band information along with an entertaining essay by Frank.  If you’re not familiar with Earwig’s catalog, you should take this opportunity to check it out.

--- Graham Clarke

Come to Papa is Carl Weathersby's fourth effort for the Evidence label since he broke onto the scene in 1996.  Prior to that, he was playing with Billy Branch and others in the local Chicago scene for at least 14 years.  Wanting to make a name for himself, he struck out on his own with the excellent Don't Lay Your Blues on Me in 1996.  After that came Looking out my Window in 1997, Restless Feeling in 1998, and Come to Papa in 2000.  With each album, Weathersby's music moves further from the straight ahead blues of his past as he incorporates more R&B and Soul into his songs. On Come to Papa, a great example is the classic blues "Walking the Back Streets and Crying."  The guitar work is excellent and Carl's voice is in top form, but the song is weak ... an R&B tune with the blues struggling to get out.  And so it goes on most of this album.  When Weathersby just let's go and plays, his licks are smooth and tasty.  The songs and their arrangements leave the listener wondering if moving Weathersby away from the blues format is such a good idea.  In particular, the upbeat songs do not shine on this album (the title track is a good example). That said, Weathersby is a gifted musician and singer.  Those looking to hear what he's all about would be better off with his 1997 CD Looking out My Window, where Weathersby and his material are as good as it gets.

--- Joseph Sherman

David Raitt and Jimmy ThackeryThat's It! (Blue Rock'It) from David Raitt & Jimmy Thackery was, for me, one of the most exciting surprises of the year.  Guitarist / vocalist Thackery will need no introduction to longtime fans of both the Nighthawks and his solo work of more recent years with his group the Drivers. But I must confess, I was completely unaware of David Raitt, brother of a well-known blues / rock / pop / folk / slide guitarist whose name you've undoubtedly guessed by now. It turns out that David has played bass and sung, both on his own and with his better-known sister, off and on for 30 years or so, and that he and Jimmy have known and played together informally for about as long. So they decided to formalize their long-running partnership, and the results make for what may be one of the best blues / R&B discs of the year. David confines himself to singing here (and he does that pretty darn well, I might add), and Jimmy sticks to guitar pickin', with the exception of a cover of Howlin' Wolf's "How Many More Years." The CD's 13 tunes are more or less equally divided between covers and originals, and the song selection owes as much to Memphis soul and Texas R&B as to classic Chicago blues. The backing musicians are not well-known to myself with the exceptions of sister Bonnie, who lends her glorious tones to a couple of numbers, and of trumpeter Mic Gillette of the original Tower of Power horn section. But they really do one hell of a job supporting the two principals. I gotta say that I don't know if I've ever heard Jimmy play better on any of his prior releases. This one's a keeper!

Needless to say, you really CAN'T squeeze the best of an artist like the great vocalist / guitarist / songwriter T-Bone Walker (1910-1975) onto the confines of a single CD. But those knowledgeable folks at Rhino have probably done the best job possible on The Very Best Of T-Bone Walker. They've picked 16 classic cuts from his prime period (1945-57), and they include such timeless tunes as "Stormy Monday," "Mean Old World," "Play On Little Girl" (with a young Junior Wells on harp), and "Strollin' With Bones." Hard-core collectors will already have most, if not all, of this material. But for those who have none, this is a great place to start. One listen to this and you'll have to get hooked!

Alberta Adams is Detroit's septuagenarian blues diva. She got her start recording in the 1940s for the legendary Chess and Savoy labels. During her career she toured with the likes of Louis Jordan, T-Bone Walker, Tiny Bradshaw, and many others of the swing blues persuasion. In recent years she has re-asserted herself with a vengeance. Say Baby Say (Cannonball), her sophomore release for the label, clearly demonstrates that this lady has still got a lot of life in her yet. The backing musicians are generally members of the band of Detroit vocalist / guitarist Johnnie Bassett, who duets with Ms. Alberta on one cut.  Lord knows that there are precious few veterans of her era still alive, well, and performing, so we'd better treasure 'em while we can.

--- Lee Poole

A band that play on the east coast has a woman lead singer that is the best of Muddy Waters/ Howlin' Wolf in a female that I have ever heard. Her name is Toby of Toby and the Boys Blues Band. The self released CD is called Tired and True. Even though none of the works on this CD are original, she treats each song with grace and dignity, from "Hound Dog" by Big Mama Thornton to two Elmore James tunes, "Dust My Broom" and "Sky is Cryin'." But it is not just her vocals that make this a 'must hear' CD, but also the slide work in "Sky is Crying" to many of the songs full of great harmonica playing. Toby gives you that smoky roadhouse feeling, then pulls out the soft and supple side of her voice with a number, "Corrina, Corrina," that is more of a love song. Her signature tune, "Love Me with a Feeling," would not be playable on must radio stations, but is one worth hearing. That song is best described as starting out at 'PG13' to a soft 'R,' closing with an 'X' rating. But again, this song shows the power in her voice and delivery. The reviews she has received calls her "a room full of male testosterone," and this CD deliveries that. The CD is available through, so check it out.

--- Little T (Simply Blue)

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