New J.B. Hutto & more...

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New J.B. Hutto & more...

Postby blueswriter » Sun Feb 13, 2005 10:14 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Feb-13-05 AT 07:17 PM (EST)]James Cotton
Baby, Don't You Tear My Clothes
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13 tracks, 53 minutes. Very good. Baby, Don't You Tear My Clothes is the third project for Telarc from James Cotton and while it stands as another formidable entry in his increasing catalog of recordings, it's not his strongest blues contribution. Although his harmonica work is still forceful and tone-rich, the record's weak suit comes from vocalists who don't possess the power of Cotton's harp, as well as a lack of new material. As a songwriter, James has always been fairly creative, but the majority of songs here are rather tame covers from the pens of Big Bill Broonzy, Slim Harpo, Robert Johnson, Sam Cooke, Lightnin' Hopkins, and a few others. The vocal work is handed in by Bobby Rush (the title track), Marcia Ball (Johnson's When You Got A Good Friend), Dave Alvin (Stealin'), Odetta (Key To The Highway), C.J. Chenier (Rainin' In My Heart), Jim Lauderdale (Muleskinner Blues), Rory Block (Mississippi Blues), plus Doc and Merle Watson (How Long Blues), and although each do a fair and commendable job, the overall relaxed feel never quite gets off the ground. Cotton's harp throughout runs the gamut from tough to tender and everywhere in between, and even if he's not as strong as he was a handful of years ago, his tone and approach are still easily recognized. The recording is filled out with a handful of instrumentals; Coach's Better Days, Blues For Jacklyn, and Friends (the sleeper on the disc) with the core band of Dave Maxwell (piano), Derek O'Brien (guitar), Noel Neal (bass), and Per Hanson (drums) acquitting themselves well. While this all-star outing offers a fine and enjoyable look at American roots music, it's not Cotton's finest work nor a proper introduction to his massive strength. Here's hoping he continues, next time around serving up a disc full of gritty blues as he's often done in the past. ... X37VN6AAX6

James Cotton
South Side Boogie
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14 tracks, 46 minutes. Interesting. It's always a bit more than odd when a CD lands in the mail slot with no return address, no information other than a track listing, and little more than the disc and the packet it's been mailed in. So is the case with South Side Boogie from one of blues' true elder statesmen; James Cotton. Seven cuts are from his first outing for Verve recorded in 1968 (Knock On Wood/Don't Start Me Talkin'/Jelly Jelly/Good Time Charlie/Sweet Sixteen/There's Something On Your Mind/Turn On Your Lovelight), and all highly worthwhile as Cotton mixes crackling straight blues with storming Southern soul. Another five tracks were recorded in Chicago in the early 1960s by Norman Dayron where Cotton delivers South Side Boogie (also known as Three Harp Boogie), Polly Put The Kettle On, So Glad I'm Living, Diggin' My Potatoes, and V-8 Ford Blues, with minimal assistance from Elvin Bishop on guitar, with Paul Butterfield and Billy Boy Arnold offering additional harp. Again all keepers. The Midnight Creeper is an edited version of the same song from Cotton's 1986 Alligator recording (Live From Chicago, which seems a bit out of place), but You're The Top, a Chicago-boogie guitar workout, has absolutlely nothing to do with James Cotton whatsoever. This oddity appeared for the first time about a quarter-century ago when West Coast slide wizard Ron Thompson had a few dozen guitar tracks issued on the fly-by-night Intermedia label under the name of Magic Sam. Just how this wound up on a disc under James Cotton's name is easily as strange as Ron Thompson once masquerading as Chicago's West Side guitar king, Magic Sam. An internet search for the Black Cat label proved useless, and since the disc under review comes from the Czech Republic, it's probably little more than another below-the-radar offering. However, what's here is mostly superb, vintage material from one of the last living harp kings from the golden age of Chicago Blues.

Diamond Jim Greene
DJG Music (2002) No Number

17 tracks, 62 minutes. Excellent. Chicago's Diamond Jim Greene is indeed a diamond in the rough. It's a good bet that he's far less known than he should be. Nine of the disc's fourteen cuts are fairly well-known covers but there's a palpable freshness listening to this bottleneck master wrap himself around the songs. Willie Brown's M&O Blues, Tampa Red's Don't You Lie To Me, and Robert Johnson's Stop Breaking Down (plus a handful more) are approched as band tracks owing more to a backwoods Mississippi juke joint in the 1950s as opposed to modern interpretations. Greene's slide work stands as masterful with a vocal style that's as old as his love for blues, shown to fine effect on his originals, Blindman, If You Go (You Stay Gone) and I Don't Got You, all fitting easily alongside Blind Willie McTell's Broke Down Engine, Bo Carter's The New Stop And Listen, Big Bill Broonzy's Keep On Drinking, the old-standby Nobody Knows You (When You're Down And Out), and Blind Boy Fuller's Screamin' Bo Hog with Diamond Jim offering some startling slide work, delicate fingerpicking, and equally earthy vocals. Assistance on the band tracks come from Bob Stroger's bass and Willie Smith's in-the-pocket drumming with Willie Kent, Nick Moss, Dave Katzman, and Matthew Skoller offering help here and there. Greene's arsenal of guitars include both steel-body and wood-body Nationals, 12-string acoustic, and a few other items all masterfully played. For the many of us previously unfamiliar with Diamond Jim Greene, his brilliant work on Snapshots will go down as smooth as a fine bourbon on a comfortable porch. A fine, fine piece of work with special thanks to Jeff Cobb for providing the disc.

J.B. Hutto
Stompin' At Mother Blues
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19 tracks, 60 minutes. Highly recommended. Listening to the recently-released Stompin' At Mother Blues from the late J.B. Hutto makes it difficult to grasp his passing over two decades ago. His jagged and fiery guitar work, plus a workmanlike voice that boomed from this small-framed man, were easily capable of knocking any listener off a bar stool from across the room in any of the countless taverns he made his living in for most of his life, and that wicked style rings loud and clear on this offering. Of the eighteen tracks included (one track being studio banter), only Hip Shakin' and Love Retirement (Want Ad) were issued previously, and Love Retirement remained unissued until Delmark's 2003 double-disc compilation titled 50 Years Of Jazz And Blues. The first dozen tracks were recorded in December of 1966 at Mother Blues, a long-defunct North Side Chicago establishment, and although no crowd was present for the date, it's obvious that Hutto and his small band, consisting of nothing more than Herman Hassell's bass and Frank Kirkland's drums, had a great time. The final seven tracks were cut in December of 1972 with a different, yet equally adept unit made up of Lee Jackson's rhythm guitar, Elbert Buckner's bass, and Bombay Carter's drums. Throughout the hour-long set, Hutto dishes out his gritty and careening slide and ragged-but-stinging single string lead work, with his big voice shouting above the powerful backing. J.B. Hutto & The Hawks are as tough as nails on Evening Train, When I Get Drunk, Hawk's Rock, Alcohol Blues, Dandruff, Turner's Rock and another twelve, plus there are alternate takes of the previously-released Precious Stone and Young Hawk's Crawl. Although the lion's share of Stompin' At Mother Blues remained on the Delmark shelves for years, this is solid and essential music from one of the Windy City's best (and often unheralded) exponents of stripped-down blues.

Dana Lupinacci
Built To Satisfy
Soka Jive (2004) No Number

12 tracks, 49 minutes. Excellent. The Pacific Northwest has a vital and vibrant blues scene much to its credit while other locales suffer from a lack of venues, players, or support systems. Dana Lupinacci, a trained opera vocalist, delivers a top-shelf outing on Built To Satisfy with a proud and booming voice backed by a capable and churning band, and it's a safe bet she's able to shake the rafters wherever she picks up a microphone. Dana's vocal range is easily the standout feature here as she belts out Straight To The Blues, Where Can That Good Man Be, Ain't Gonna Cry No More, You Make Me Feel (Like A Woman), Caffeine Quest, Devil/Angel Child, How Long 'Til I Win Your Love, Built To Satisfy, and Credit Card Queen. The taut guitar work from Dan Baker, creative harmonica from Michael Wilde, and edgy tenor sax offered by Jeremy Smith (also handing in Hammond organ and electric piano) are each given ample space to show their abilities with anchoring from bassist Guy Quintino, and either Billy Spaulding or David Hudson's drums. Dana's vocals are as brash as they are brilliant throughout the disc, but there's also a slight tendency to over-emphasize things (especially evident on It's Love Baby (24 Hours Of The Day and Evenin'), but her strong phrasing shines from beginning to end making this a most pleasurable listen. There are touches of Memphis Minnie, Big Mama Thorton, and Koko Taylor present, but what stands as the disc's ace card is her highly impressive talent as a gripping singer. Putting aside the one minor quibble, this is a highly worthwhile slice of music which should satisfy anyone with an appreciation for strong blues, a potent backing outfit, and a mighty singer with a passion as wide as her range. Thanks to Dennis Dudley for providing this fine disc.

Ann Rabson
In A Family Way
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14 tracks. 45 minutes. Recommended. Most readers will be aware of Ann Rabson from either her solo efforts or her longstanding and timeless works with Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women. Her In A Family Way marks the third solo outing (previous projects can be found in either the Alligator or MC Records catalogs) but this is more of what the title implies; a family outing displaying talent across the board. As expected, Ann's vocals run the range from quiet and introspective to loud and extroverted while her guitar and piano shine throughout. Her large and present musical family here includes Mimi Rabson's violin, Kenji Rabson's bass, Steve Rabson's piano, and Liz Rabson Schnore's guitar, while trombone and organ are handled by Dave Harris. Standout covers include See See Rider, Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy, and Midnight Hour Blues but there's plenty remaining with fine originals like I Can't Get My Mind Off Of You, Blindsided, I'd Rather Be Alone, I Want To Hop On Your Harley and more. The relaxed swing present on each cut exemplifies the true family atmosphere and the easy-going and often tough acoustic approach should please fans of country blues, hokum or jug bands easily. From the well-crafted covers to the tastefully written originals (with her usual tongue-in-cheek humor), Ann Rabson offers up another highly entertaining set In A Family Way.

© 2005 by Craig Ruskey
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RE: New J.B. Hutto & more...

Postby stumblin » Fri Mar 18, 2005 7:29 am

Thanks for the reviews as usual BW.
I got a copy of Stompin' at Mother Blues a couple of days ago, it's a belter. The only track on it that I'd heard before is Hip Shakin', but that's such a belter I don't mind one bit.
Great stuff, highly recommended :)
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RE: New J.B. Hutto & more...

Postby blueswriter » Fri Mar 18, 2005 10:54 pm

Srompin' At Mother Blues is a gem. Glad you enjoyed the review and the disc. It's been getting a frequent turn in the CD changer since I got it.
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