Sometimes I just want to luxuriate in some good, old-fashioned, down-home blues. Especially when there’s a hole in my soul that needs … well, you know.
Lucky me, I just happen to have a few such new albums on hand to listen to, and that I also want to write about. So this will be a three-fer post, with capsule reviews, which also gives me a chance to catch up on the backlog of albums that are piling up on the Roadhouse bar. (Well, the albums don’t exactly pile up anymore as much as the digital files accumulate, possibly in the cloud, and who knows what kind of blues storm that might ignite.)
But I digress. Here are the albums, all filled some great new and old blues. Music samples from all three albums come at the bottom of this post, so please hold your applause till the end.
John Primer Live at Rosa’s Lounge — “Teardrops for Magic Slim” — Blues House Productions
Morris Holt, aka Magic Slim, was one of the great Magic men of Chicago blues guitar, larger than life in person, and larger than life’s soundtrack with his deep, churning, tough blues style with his band, the Teardrops.
John Primer is equally at home in these surroundings, and this tribute to Slim works both as a reminder of his distinctive sound and a showcase for Primer’s own talents (he played with the Teardrops for 13 years).
That distinctive sound is very much alive here, as Primer works with the Teardrops, including Slim’s son, Shawn, who shows off his vocals as well.
This album drives along with the tough rhythms that defined Slim’s sound. A few tracks that especially caught my ear include the rocking “Mama Talk to Your Daughter,” the slow burning “Ain’t Doing Too Bad,” the classics ‘It Hurts Me Too” (with Shawn Holt) and “Look Over Yonder Wall,” and the rousing closer, “The Blues Is Alright.”
I saw Slim once, at Moondog’s, the fine little blues bar in Blawnox, Pa., just outside of Pittsburgh. It was 2008, and I think my photo here at left captures how much fun he had entertaining the crowd.
If you’re interested in watching this incarnation of the Teardrops, there will be a tribute concert at Blue Chicago to be broadcast live online on March 24, 2023. Get ticket information here.
Jimi “Primetime” Smith & Bob Corritore — “The World in a Jug” — VizzTone
You know that anytime Bob Corritore opens his music vaults, some great blues is waiting to be exhumed. This album by guitarist Jimi “Primetime” Smith plus Corritore is taken from four recording sessions between 2017 and 2020 — but still digs way back into the last century for its roots.
Smith plays guitar that stings behind his rich vocals, and Corritore’s harp adds deep blue texture. Among my favorites are the rollicking title track, a scorching Jimmy-Reed style “We Got To Stick Together” and “You For Me,” and the slightly salacious “Love Her With A Feeling.”
Just incidentally, the phrase captured in the title track “The World in a Jug,” has a history as old as the history of blues recording. The line, “I got the world in a jug, the stopper in my hand,” was added by Bessie Smith when she recorded “Downhearted Blues,” with lyrics by Alberta Hunter, in 1923.
Both Corritore and Smith have deep Chicago blues roots, and this session speaks well of its heritage.
Floyd Dixon — “Time Brings About a Change” — HighJohn Records Reissue Series
Piano-man Floyd Dixon’s blues took a slightly different track, but were no less powerful than its Chicago cousins. Born in Texas, later from Los Angeles, Dixon’s style favored the West Coast jump blues tradition.
This album is a reissue of a concert recorded in June, 2006, hosted by Dixon, that featured fellow blues piano giants Pinetop Perkins and Henry Gray. The band was led by Kid Ramos and included Larry Taylor and Richard “Bigfoot” Innes. Kim Wilson, Fred Kaplan (from the Hollywood Blue Flames) and Lynwood Slim also performed.
Dixon died the following month, and this album was originally released shortly afterward.A DVD package was released in 2013. The CD and a three-DVD set are all part of this reissue. This package has been curated for this release by Blueheart Records.
The 17 songs on the album feature Dixon on piano and vocals, all shared with his costars. Sadly, his ill health at the time is reflected in some of his strained vocals, which still muster his passion for blues. But Dixon still manages to rock a full-throated piano, as do Perkins and Gray in their contributions.
I’m generally a fool for fine blues piano, and this reissue is no exception. This is a showcase for blues piano by three masters. If I were the blues czar, I’d make it required listening, even if it was just to pull back the curtain of time a minute for a glimpse of this great old music.
So, if you like your blues straight, with no chaser, try any — or better yet, all — of these excellent blues recordings.
Here’s “The World in a Jug” from Jimi “Primetime” Smith and Bob Corritore:
Here’s an excellent video of Slim’s magic on stage:
Here’s a 1996 performance of Floyd Dixon’s 1955 release, “Hey Bartender”: