The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
CD Reviews  |  Classical  |  Live Reviews  |  Music Features

Various artist | Chicago Blues: A Living History

Raisin (2009)
By TED DROZDOWSKI  |  April 14, 2009
4.0 4.0 Stars


The first two generations of electric Chicago blues are either dead or on the endangered list, but this double-disc set proves the style still has teeth and claws. Especially when John Primer revs his guitar like a turbine to pay tribute to Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters, and fellow six-stringer Lurrie Bell howls out Otis Rush's "My Love Will Never Die" as if he were fighting for the genre's life.

The subtitle describes the concept behind these 21 revisited classics, which are arranged to trace the music's development from 1940 (John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson's "My Little Machine") to the present (Buddy Guy's "Damn Right, I've Got the Blues"). It also alludes to the session's leaders. Harmonica man Arnold and guitarist Primer are both part of the music's second generation, apprentices of Williamson and Waters, respectively. Daredevil player Bell is the son of harp legend Carey Bell, and Branch learned harmonica from James Cotton, Junior Wells, Big Walter, and the senior Bell.

They put their own artistic stamp on these tunes while remaining faithful to core arrangements and era-specific sounds. So Branch adds a little tonal vinegar to the tail of Junior Wells's "Hoodoo Man Blues," and Primer's amps hum with Chess-era distortion. The four frontmen enjoy the crack support of a back-up that includes Kenny Smith (son of Willie "Big Eyes" Smith) on drums and guitarist Billy Flynn, who elegantly slides and wah-wahs his way through Earl Hooker's signature "Hooking It"; and the ensemble playing captures the spare perfection of the '40s and '50s recordings that first translated the elements of Delta blues — 12-bar structures, slide guitar, call-and-response lines, African-rooted rhythms — to the beat and buzz of the big city. These performances aren't just retro; they're real.

Related: What good can the blues do?, Howlin’ Wolf | Rockin’ the Blues: Live In Germany, 1964, Cadillac Records, More more >
  Topics: CD Reviews , Entertainment, Music, Nature and the Environment,  More more >
  • Share:
  • Share this entry with Facebook
  • Share this entry with Digg
  • Share this entry with Delicious
  • RSS feed
  • Email this article to a friend
  • Print this article
HTML Prohibited
Add Comment

[ 02/06 ]   Boston Opera Collaborative conducted by Emily Hindrichs  @ Tower Auditorium
[ 02/06 ]   Teatro Lirico D'Europa  @ Cutler Majestic Theatre
[ 02/06 ]   "New England Winter Blues Festival"  @ Tupelo Music Hall
[ 02/06 ]   Tim Mungenast + Michael Bloom + Adam Sherman  @ Andala Cafe
[ 02/06 ]   Marcus Santos + Bloco  @ Harvard Square
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   RICKIE LEE JONES | BALM IN GILEAD  |  December 02, 2009
    It’s astonishing to think that Rickie Lee Jones would turn out an album this organic and free of cynicism 30 years after her debut with the star-making, retro-hipster hit “Chuck E.’s in Love.” Particularly since her songwriting has always been so acutely self-aware.
  •   MYSTIC MUSO  |  November 04, 2009
    “America’s Pre-eminent Music Writer Dead at 52” was the headline on Robert Palmer’s obituary in Rolling Stone after his liver failed in 1997.
  •   BRENDAN HOGAN | LONG NIGHT COMING  |  October 21, 2009
    Self-released (2009)
  •   DARRELL NULISCH | JUST FOR YOU  |  October 22, 2009
    This Boston-based blues and soul singer’s seventh album might seem an update of the elegantly funky Stax sound, with its deep grooves and smartly harmonized horns.
  •   REVIEW: TOM RUSSELL | BLOOD AND CANDLE SMOKE  |  September 22, 2009
    This LA-born troubadour with a Dustbowl voice works voodoo on his 24th studio album, conjuring ghosts of the ’60s and ’70s along with apocalyptic visions as he relates tales of gun-toting madmen and dark rifts of the heart.

 See all articles by: TED DROZDOWSKI

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2010 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group