JOE LOUIS WALKER, BRUCE KATZ, GILES ROBSON: Journeys To The Heart Of The Blues
Munich VVNL 32982 (52:11)
Mean Old Train/ It’s You, Baby/ I’m A Lonely Man/ You Got To Run Me Down/ Murderer’s Home/ Feel Like Blowin’ My Horn/ Hell Ain’t But A Mile And A Quarter/ G & J Boogie/ Poor Kelly Blues/ Chicago Breakdown/ Hard Pill To Swallow/ Real Gone Lover
This release comprises twelve tracks (all covers except for ‘G & J Boogie’, composed by Robson and Walker). Thankfully the usual suspects have been avoided and what we have here is a fine selection of songs penned by Papa Lightfoot, Sunnyland Slim, Roosevelt Sykes, Big Maceo and others, not forgetting St. Louis Red Mike Bailey. All tracks are acoustic, recorded live in the studio in Woodstock, New York.
George ‘Papa’ Lightfoot’s ‘Mean Old Train’ is first up, with Robson playing some delightful harp and a tough vocal from Walker. Next up, Sunnyland Slim’s ‘It’s You Baby’ (stupendous piano from Katz) followed by a superb rendition of Sonny Boy Williamson’s ‘I’m A Lonely Man’.
Washboard Sam’s ‘You Got To Run Me Down’ is a jivey up-tempo romp (Robson sits this one out). Blind Willie McTell’s ‘Murderer’s Home’ is next, then a loose, relaxed take on Roosevelt Sykes’ ‘Feel Like Blowin’ My Horn’ (which is dedicated to Robert Lockwood). St. Louis Red Mike Bailey is not exactly a household name, his ‘Hell Ain’t But A Mile And A Quarter’ features Walker’s vocal backed by superlative piano from Katz – ‘Next thing you have to do, you know I’m gonna marry the devil’s daughter, you may think it’s a long ways away, but hell ain’t nothin’ but a mile and a quarter …’
The original ‘G & J Boogie’ is a romping instrumental boogie featuring guitar and harp, no piano this time. Big Maceo waxed both ‘Poor Kelly Blues’ and ‘Chicago Breakdown’ for Bluebird. ‘Kelly’ is a tale of violence and misogyny: ‘went up the mountain, lord, to see what poor Kelly had done, he killed his woman, didn’t even much attempt to run’. ‘Breakdown’, one of the classic blues piano instrumentals, is a solo feature for Katz.
Son Bonds’ ‘Hard Pill To Swallow’ is stretched out to six minutes, taken at a mid-tempo, it’s possibly the toughest Walker vocal on the set, Robson also impresses. The set closer is a relaxed, swinging reading of ‘Real Gone Lover’ (penned by Bartholomew, Durand and Robichaux), originally waxed by Smiley Lewis for Imperial.
This is a vibrant take on a bunch of classic blues numbers, firmly in the mould of albums like 1969’s ‘Buddy And The Juniors’ (I can’t believe it was recorded fifty years ago!) It’s an intimate performance with Walker, Katz and Robson sparking off each other and obviously enjoying the musical company. Without bass and drums there is plenty of light and shade, and the interplay between all concerned is a joy to listen to. This release is an unqualified success. I urge readers of B&R to check it out for themselves, you won’t regret it I am sure.
JIM ALLCHIN: Prime Blues
Sandy Key Music CD-JA005 (53:24)
Give It Up/ Devil Don’t Sleep/ Voodoo Doll/ Snuggle Up/ Jimmy’s Boogie/ Summer Sunrise/ Enough Is Enough/ Found The Blues/ Two Bad Dreams/ Pawn Shop Man/ Lost My Mind/ Up To Destiny/ Tech Blues/ Logoff
The title and story line of the great swinging autobiographical ‘Found The Blues’ sums up Florida-born guitarist and singer Jim Allchin’s love of blues music. He has surrounded himself with mighty fine musicians for this, his latest album.
Tom Hambridge produced the set and also plays drums throughout. The Memphis Horns, who include Charles Rose, Jim Hoke, Steve Hermann and Douglas Moffet, appear on some numbers and guest Bobby Rush makes an appearance on vocals and harp on the tough sounding blues of ‘Two Bad Dreams’. Another guest, this time Mike Zito, takes vocals on the up-tempo rocking and rolling ‘Enough Is Enough’ that has an infectious heavy riff running through the track.
It’s clear from the get go that Allchin is a very gifted guitar player who can turn out some heavy sounds with ease. As an example, give a listen to the easy swinging ‘Devil Don’t Sleep’ which opens with some Albert King licks before he develops an impressive midway guitar solo that will please guitar loving folks out there. It gets heavy on the powerful sounding ‘Snuggle Up’ and the short instrumental ‘Jimmy’s Boogie’ is exactly what it says it is.
The pace settles nicely into a lovely soulful outing that has the brass parping in all the right places on ‘Summer Sunrise’, which is a great track and which features a restrained and impressive guitar solo from Jim. ‘Pawn Shop Man’, a sorrowful tale of hardship due to gambling addiction is set to a relaxed semi-acoustic sound. ‘Lost My Mind’ starts off in honky tonk fashion before the song develops an infectious mid-tempo groove.
The variety of music continues with the subtle soulfulness of ‘Up To Destiny’, a song that develops a head of steam as it progresses. ‘Tech Blues’ starts off in semi acoustic outing and then switches between that style and a mid-paced full band outing. There is, from the evidence of this disc, more to Jim than being a fine guitarist. His song writing skills are very good indeed and his willingness to adopt various musical styles from the blues heritage is impressive as well. It’s a fine album from a very talented artist.
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