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More Coming...

Postby blueswriter » Wed May 25, 2005 4:27 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON May-25-05 AT 05:28 PM (EST)]Keep your eyes here, gang, there's more on the way...

Various Artists
Diamonds In The Rough - Chicago Blues Harmonica Project
Severn (2005) 0034

12 tracks, 52 minutes. Strongly recommended. While the golden age of Chicago Blues harmonica may well have passed on years ago, the common thought is that the instrument and its players have given way to guitar-oriented blues. That may be true to a point but powerful harp can still be heard and the players featured here refuse to hand the reins over to guitar wranglers - not without putting up some serious opposition anyway. Diamonds In The Rough showcases a pair of players who are relative newcomers to the fold; Omar Coleman, a man in his early thirties who is exceptionally strong on the funky Jody's Got Your Girl And Gone and Willie Cobbs' You Don't Love Me, plus Russ Green, who hands in masterful performances on Wolf's How Many More Years and Little Walter's Everything's Gonna Be Alright. While each of these younger cats hold tradition in one hand with powerfully overdriven harp, they also aren't afraid to stretch the boundaries with highly inventive and creative playing. Larry Cox, born in 1937, has only been recorded once (on JSP) prior to his session here, but his takes on Walter's Mean Old World and Jimmy Reed's Goin' To New York are both superb with rippling harmonica and a voice that needs to be heard far more. Harmonica Khan #1 sadly didn't live to see Baby What You Want Me To Do or Next Time You See Me issued as he passed away a short while ago, however, his performances (from Jimmy Reed and Little Junior Parker's catalogs) recall the days when Maxwell Street was bustling with countless artists who were a bit different than the norm - Khan accompanies himself singing and blowing with some tap dancing and bone rattling. Little Addison has been seen around Chicago since the 1950s and has played with a number of high-ranking names although he's never recorded previously, but he's both crisp and forceful for Look On Yonder Wall and Respect Me. Another highlight is the return of Dusty Brown, known for a fabulous offering in the 1950s on Parrot, and he resurfaces with a fine reworking of the classic He Don't Love You plus Little Walter's I Got To Go. It's a disappointment when artists of this caliber slip into obscurity but a blessing when they return with the fire of old. Well-deserved praise for The Chicago Bluesmasters (Rick Kreher and Little Frank on guitars, Mark Brumbach's piano, Pat McKeever's bass, and the drumming of Twist Turner) as they provide sharp and uncluttered backing throughout. While the featured names might not be of the harmonica household sort, Diamonds In The Rough should lay to rest the notion that Chicago Blues harmonica is a lost or dying art - the tradition has been passed on and will continue for others who desire to carry the torch. Truly exceptional blues.

Various Artists
The Legendary Henry Stone
Presents Blues From The 50s

Henry Stone Music (2005) HSM 25002 ... 5_155.jpeg

21 tracks, 56 minutes. Highly recommended. Who was the 'legendary' Henry Stone, you ask? Perhaps his Chart, Marlin, and Rockin' labels will point you in the right direction. For many, while Stone was maybe not as 'legendary' as some of the artists he recorded, his various imprints housed some fine blues in the 1950s and a good selection of those recordings sit comfortably on this disc. As is generally the case with reissues, some of this material has been out before, on an old Nighthawk LP, and more recently on CD from Hot Productions. The four Little Sam Davis tracks (Goin' To New Orleans/She's So Good To Me/Goin' Home To Mother/1958 Blues) stem from around 1953 and feature solid harp and smokey vocals in additon to Earl Hooker's guitar work. Hooker himself is spotlighted well on six cuts; Sweet Angel and On The Hook were both issued under Stone's Rockin' banner while Ride Hooker Ride, Alley Corn, After Hours and Jammin' were left as unissued items by Stone. Lightnin' Hopkins' 1956 Houston recordings of Walkin' The Streets and Mussy Haired Woman saw issue on the Chart label and feature Lightnin's slashing electric guitar, bass from Doanld Cooks and an unknown drummer. For those who have Hopkins' excellent Herald recordings, this pairing should prove highly worthwhile. Joe Hill Louis also recorded for Stone (under the names Johnny Lewis and Leslie Louis) and is superb on the rocking Jealous Man and the slow and potent She's Taking All My Money, both with searing guitar, with Ridin' Home and Don't Do It Again, featuring Joe Hill's harp in tandem with sax. Also aboard is Ray Charles on St. Pete Florida Blues, West Coast blues crooner Jimmy Wilson, who is heard to good effect on a previously unissued and snarling take of Alley Blues with a small band in tow, and Willie Baker's solid Goin' Back Home Today. The disc closes with a pair from Eddie Hope & The Mannish Boys; Hope singing the shuffling stop-time Lost Child while Johnny Tucker offers harp and vocals on the drilling A Fool No More. Brief liner notes accompany the disc providing little more than a short biographical paragraph on each artist, but a major improvement would have been session details - one may surmise that little more is known on these recordings other than what's included in Leadbitter and Slaven's Blues Records discography. Sound quality, for the most part, is much better than listenable, but the music included is simply exceptional.

© 2005 by Craig Ruskey
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