Reviews in brief: Kim Wilson, Chris Smither, Crooked Eye Tommy

Here are a few recent albums I’ve noticed that seem worthy of some attention.

Kim Wilson — “Take Me Back – The BigTone Sessions” M.C. Records

Wilson has been the lead singer and harp man for The Fabulous Thunderbirds for about 30 years now, but sometimes steps out on his own, This album is a nice throwback to a more traditional blues framework than the T-Birds often provide (not that the T-Birds aren’t still tuff enuff). This is more of a deep-blue, down-home album, with music steeped in the bubbling cauldron of Chicago blues. The harp work is fine and the vocals tough, and the old-fashioned mono and “live” recording need only a whiskey chaser to feel more authentic.

Chris Smither — “More from the Levee” Signature Sounds

Chris Smither may not be your idea of the typical bluesman, but his 50 years of writing, recording and performing his very personal brand of introspective music have always seemed to be well-informed by the blues. This album picks up where his 2014 retrospective “Still on the Levee” left off, with tracks that missed out on the earlier sides. It’s. is always worth a listen to see what Chris has to say about our world. This is an excellent example.

Here’s one of the tracks:

And here’s a video of Chris performing his now-classic “Love You Like a Man,” which people seem to associate more with Bonnie Raitt, who made it a big hit. She, of course, reversed the gender roles, and the song became “Love Me Like a Man.” I have no objection to that, but I have always been a little miffed because Bonnie also decided to change the first line of the song from:
“These men you’ve been seeing got their balls up on the shelf….”
To the somewhat more ethereal:
“Men that I’ve been seeing, baby, got their soul up on a shelf… “

Crooked Eye Tommy: “Hot Coffee and Pain” Blue Heart Records

Brother guitar duos are a rare and special commodity in the music world, with such a bond resulting in historic acts like AC/DC, The Kinks, CCR, The Everly Brothers and Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan. Ventura County brothers Tommy and Paddy Marsh formed Crooked Eye Tommy in 2010, becoming six-time Ventura County Music Award winners and two-time International Blues Challenge semi-finalists (2014 and 2019) and in 2020 reached the IBC finals as a duo act.

Their new album (just their second), “Hot Coffee and Pain,” is a tasty blend of blues, rock and roots tracks, including six originals. Their style ranges from a high-intensity version of Son House’s “Death Letter Blues” on the opening track, to the soulfully sensual “Baby Where You Been,” a duet written by Tommy Marsh that features Teresa James on piano and vocals. These very talented and creative brothers deserve a listen.

Here’s the title track:

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