VizzTone Label Group
Bob Margolin has had a long and storied blues
career, notable in the early phase as guitarist with
the Muddy Waters Band followed by
many years as a bandleader and recording artist.
After recording albums for esteemed blues labels
like Alligator and Blind Pig, Margolin decided to do
his own thing. Needless to see, he's had a pretty
darned good career, with more years to follow. My
Road (VizzTone Label Group) is his latest. He's backed here
by his usual sidekicks --- Chuck Cotton on drums and
Tad Walters on harp and guitar. Not much of a singer
early in his career, Margolin has turned into a very
effective vocalist with his earthy, baritone pipes.
It compliments his consistently top-notch Blues
Most of Margolin's recordings tend to be
somewhat autobiographical about life out on the road
and the trials and tribulations of making it as a
blues artist, and this one seems just a little more so.
He starts out with an original song, "My Whole
Life," on which he talks about stepping up to the
bandstand and saying that "my whole life led up to
this" and later reflects "With every note I play
there are 50 years of shows, two millions miles of
highway and the passion just grows, it brings good
folks together, there's nothing that I miss."
Walters blows some mean harp throughout this song,
especially on a solo towards the end of the tune.
Margolin continues the tune by singing, "Blues has been my teacher for everything I've
learned, the bandstand is my workplace for
everything I earned, I hope my blues will move you,
six thousand or just six, but either way I know my whole
life led up to this."
Another number on which Bob sings about his blues life
is "Young and Old Blues," on which he reflects on
different perceptions of age with different experiences
during his performing career, belting out lines
like, "The road is tough but so am I" and "Do my
blues move you tonight, or am I just history?"
Margolin kicks in
some tasty guitar licks between choruses, reminding
us that he's still one of the best guitarists on the
blues scene today.
"Goodnight" is a touching slow blues performed solo
by Margolin, an emotional farewell to someone from
his life who has passed on. "Goodbye is just
not right, so I'll just say goodnight." Plenty
of emotion coming from both his voice and his
"Understanding Heart" is a mournful tune with snaky slide guitar from Margolin and chromatic
harmonica from Walters. Margolin pleads with the
listener by singing, "An understanding heart, the
key to the door of love, an understanding love, to
bear these blues and rise above."
While more than half of the songs here are band
originals, there are also some well-chosen covers.
Margolin worked off and on for many years with the late blues singer
Nappy Brown, helping the singer get
back in front of blues audiences. He does a
loving tribute by covering one of Nappy's songs,
"Bye Bye Baby," featuring very nice harmonizing by Margolin and Cotton while Walters backs them on
harmonica. No guitar or drums here --- just their
voices and the harp accompaniment.
Another great cover, "Feelin' Right Tonight,"
had me reaching deep into the distant
memory banks before recalling that the song was done originally
by D.C.-area rockabilly cat Tex Rubinowitz. This
version is slower and less frenetic than Tex's
Walters' harmonica accompaniment giving it a more
bluesy sound. I recall when
Walters was just a youngster starting out his blues
career, and he's certainly matured into a fine
artist in his own right in the past 20 years.
Margolin honors the late Sean Costello by doing one
of Sean's compositions, "Low Life Blues," which
details the composer's own difficulties in his blues
life before dying from an accidental drug overdose
at 28. This one features a great harp solo by
Walters along with steady drumming from Cotton.
Closing this fine disc is a classic example of
Margolin taking us on a blues trip about as deep as
we can go. It's a Terry Abrahamson composition,
"Heaven Mississippi," on which he mentions many
long-gone musicians all coming together in a a bluesman's version of Heaven. Even Robert Johnson is
found in this version of Heaven, walking side by
side with the Devil. Certainly an
appropriate choice to close out this trip down Margolin's road, especially as he breathlessly
repeats the chorus line, "In Heaven Mississippi, the
Blues will never die," to finish the song. .
After nearly 50 years of playing the Blues, Margolin
should be bestowed with the "icon" title. He's not
just a link to many blues artists now gone from this
world (moving on to Heaven Mississippi, obviously),
but continues to breathe new life into the genre. Be
sure to follow Margolin down his own personal Blues
Highway by repeatedly listening to My Road. You
won't regret it.
--- Bill Mitchell