Blues Reviews Feb/March 2021

Kim Wilson
Take Me Back!
M.C. Records 2020

Some artists just “phone it in” at live performances and even on records. Others are at the opposite end of the spectrum, either exuding joy at what they are doing and communicating wholehearted dedication to their art. Count Kim Wilson as one of the latter.
Wilson, since his teenage years near Santa Barbara as “Goleta Slim” and then during his decades in Austin as co-founder of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, has secured his place in the pantheon of blues greats. Although he and the Fabs can rock with the best, he is a diehard bluesman by nature. Among his seminal influences are Muddy Waters – who allegedly called him the best harmonica player he had heard since Little Walter Jacobs, a supreme compliment – and Jimmy Rogers, Muddy’s original second guitarist and a fine harmonicat himself, with whom Wilson had a close relationship.
On “Take Me Back!” his first recording in three years and his return after almost two decades to M.C. Records, Wilson presents a premier set of sixteen pithy and pulsating tracks of pure Chicago blues. Complementing him is an ensemble of top-tier West Coast musicians, led by guitarist and album co-producer Big Jon Atkinson and pianist Bob Welsh. Drummers and bassists are of comparable caliber, and on a couple of tracks noted session saxophonist Johnny Viau makes nifty appearances. From the Chicago area, outstanding guitarist Billy Flynn and the late keyboard expert Barrelhouse Chuck augment several tracks.
There is one rocker in the set, a Larry Williams composition ironically named “Slow Down”…but you won’t be stationary while it’s playing. Every other track is a mid-tempo or uptempo twelve bar blues, Chicago style, no tricks, no gimmicks, no frills. Many of the cuts last barely over two minutes, and the longest less than four, and each delivers a wallop. To say that the musicians are proficient is an understatement, and their expertise prevents the set from sounding repetitive. Also contributing to the variety are Wilson’s outstanding harmonica renderings. Over the years Wilson has garnered almost thirty Blues Music Award nominations from the Blues Foundation and has deservedly won multiple BMAs as Harmonica Player of the Year. He is still in peak form. In addition, he is a strong singer with a wide vocal range.
He’s also a good songwriter. Of the sixteen tunes, seven are his originals. (The remainder include covers of songs by Howlin’ Wolf, Percy Mayfield, and Rogers [James A. Lane]). Four of the originals are instrumentals and each showcases Wilson at his best on mouth harp; “Wingin’ It” allows drummer Malachi Johnson to stretch out; “Strollin’” and “Rumblin’” are buttressed by the trio of Atkinson, Troy Sandow on bass, and Marty Dodson on drums; “Out of the Fryin’ Pan,” the closing cut, adds Welsh, Rusty Zinn on second guitar, and Kedar Roy on bass.
If you love Chicago-style blues, look no further. If you don’t already love it, you may after listening to “Take Me Back!”— Steve Daniels

Veronica Lewis
You Ain’t Unlucky
Blue Heart Records 2021

From New Hampshire, Veronica Lewis won her first Granite State Blues Challenge in 2016 when she was thirteen years old, and won it again in 2017 and 2018. She won the Boston Blues Challenge in 2020 and also the New England Music Hall of Fame’s Best Young Artist award in the same year. She is now seventeen years old; this is her first album…and it’s a powerhouse.
Lewis cites Pinetop Perkins, Dr. John, Jerry Lee Lewis (apparently no relation), Otis Spann, and Katie Webster as her main piano influences. That’s a very impressive list. This brief half hour set of eight tunes mirrors her influences and telegraphs her future aspirations. Six of the tracks are originals, including the only instrumental, “Ode to Jerry Lee”; covers of Louis Jordan’s jump blues classic “Is You Is My Baby” and Webster’s “Whoo Whee Sweet Daddy” round out the set. She is backed by Mike Walsh and Chris Anzalone alternating on drums, and Don Davis and Joel Edinberg on saxophone.
Where is the bassist? Bass resides in Lewis’s rock-steady left hand, which provides the reliable foundation. Her right hand provides the melodies and variations, with vigorous chording and frequent arpeggios and runs up and down the keyboard, pulsating rhythm being the watchword. Drummers solidify the approach with steady support, and the saxophones add nice fills and occasional pithy solos.
Not to be ignored is Lewis’s singing. In a way she reminds me of the late, great pop and soul singer Laura Nyro. Lewis’s vocals are higher in pitch than Nyro’s, but both exhibit wide range, and share the habit of unexpected and creative pauses, sustained notes, and melisma.
Their piano styles also share the trait of frequent changes in tempo.
Lewis’s songs are similarly impressive, with witty narrative lyrics. There’s plenty of variety. The set opens with the title tune, with piano riffs reminiscent of Mose Allison. Following are a zippy rocker, a danceable shuffle, and then her rearrangement of Jordan’s composition, featuring her best vocalizing. We then segue to an uptempo twelve bar outing, a fine cover of Webster’s tune, and the rollicking ode to “the Killer,” Jerry Lee. The set concludes with “The Memphis Train,” and there is no doubt that by then I am wholeheartedly on board.
We will all be hearing more from Veronica Lewis; this is a memorable start.—Steve Daniels

Southern Bred9
I’m Tore Down—Texas R&B Rockers
Koko Mojo CD

Southern Bred 10
I Got A Big Fine Baby
Koko Mojo CD

These two latest editions of Koko Mojo’s Southern Bred series are devoted exclusively to Texas R&B rockers. The artists, for the most part, are well known and their chosen tracks are not the tried-and-true ones that most run-of-the-mill compilations feature which makes for rewarding listening. Volume nine, for example, leads off with Bobby “Rockin’ Robin” Day’s doo wop-shaded “That’s All I Want” and closes with Young Jessie’s fiery r&b rocker “I Smell A Rat” with great sides by the likes of Mercy Dee (“Red Light”), Lightnin’ Hopkins (“New York Boogie”), Smokey Hogg (“You’re Gonna Look Mike A Monkey When You Get Old”), T.V. Slim ( “Flat Foot Sam Meets Jim Dandy”), Barbara Lynn (“Teen Age Blues”) and Ivory Joe Hunter with his perceptive “You Can’t Stop This Rocking And Rolling” in between. Other in-the-groove numbers feature artists on the order of Peppermint Harris, Charles Brown and Amos Milburn (together on “Educated Fool”), Pee Wee Crayton, Freddy King, Roy Hawkins with his scolding “Trouble Makin’ Woman” and saxophone maven Joe Houston with his hep “Shtiggy Boom.” Volume ten is more of the same with picks including “Pack Fair And Square” by Big Walter And His Thunderbirds, two cuts by the underrated rural bluesman Harmonica Slim (“Do What You Wanna Do” and “Lonely Hours”), a foot stomping “I’m Your Boogie Man “ by Goree Carter (“Pretty pretty baby, show me your boogie bear; If you can’t make it boogie, I swear you ain’t nowhere”) , Albert Collins’ debut single (“Collins Shuffle”) for the tiny Kangaroo label, Joe Houston with his anthem-like “We’re Gonna Rock ‘N’ Roll” and Floyd Dixon with his minor hit “Hey Bartender.” Other nuggets showcase the likes of Marie Adams, Lloyd Glenn and His Joy Makers (with their great boogie instrumental “Midnight Boogie”), Jessie Belvin, Freddy Fender (with a Spanish version of “Jailhouse Rock”) and “Neck Bones And Collard Greens” from the hungry Wild Bill Moore. 56 tracks between the two, all with great sound—if you bought volumes one to eight, you won’t be disappointed by this pair. - Gary von Tersch

The Seeds:
Pushing Too Hard
Big Beat CD

Psychedelic garage-rockers, the Seeds were one of the more bizarre groups generated in Los Angeles during the mid-sixties in the midst of the folk-rock era. Formed by the magnetic Sky Saxon, the original group also included Jan Savage, Daryl Hooper and Rick Andridge. The band’s decidedly organically simplistic, attitude-heavy sound continues to pack a remarkable punch to this day but it was Saxon’s hauntingly idiosyncratic howling and stream-of-consciousness ramblings that made them entrancingly unique as the acclaimed recent documentary The Seeds: Pushing Too Hard (“Pushing” was a national Top 40 hit at the end of 1966) explains. This rockumentary soundtrack disc features not only their further Top 40 hits (“Mr. Farmer,” “Can’t Seem To Make You Mine,” “A Thousand Shadows”) but rarities and a host of unissued cuts. Even Muddy Waters makes an appearance on a previously unissued 1954 on-location recording that catches the iconic bluesman at the peak of his powers with a compelling version of “Baby Please Don’t Go.” A detailed 24-page booklet, replete with many period images, tells the bands’ colorful rags-to-riches-to rags tale because by 1969 it was all over with no further recordings by any of the band members and the late Saxon reduced to contacting record companies with tapes he avers are “better than the Beatles.”—Gary von Tersch
Luther Badman Keith
Working Bluesman
BMB Records

The award-winning Detroit singer-songwriter and guitarist Luther “Badman” Keith returns with his fifth album of all original music. And the 14 track collection is dedicated to his late uncle, U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Damon J. Keith who died in 2019. It’s a strong body of work that, not only focuses on Keith’s stellar songwriting and guitar work, but his ability to surround himself with a band featuring some of the Motor City’s finest.
The title track “Working Bluesman” encapsulates an average musician’s never ending grind of seeking, booking and performing gigs. From barbecues and small clubs to birthday parties and large halls, he plays them all. It’s a grooving, swinging good time track where Keith bellows “I’m a working bluesman….let me work for you!” The “Blame Game” is as timely as front page news, addressing mass shootings in the United States. However, with the polarized state of our current political climate, it could also apply to the way, as humans, we engage with, or disengage, each other. In it, Keith sings “Left blames the right, and right blames the left.” He seems to throw up his hands in frustration, amid a minor Albert King syncopation as he states “Nothing will ever change and always stays the same.” It’s certainly a track that should make one take pause and think. “Home to the Blues” is a soulful and jazzy mid-tempo horn piece that swings. Shades of Van Morrison and Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes, it tells a tale of how the blues is always there when things in life get rough. Keith sings “The world turns so cold, people turn so mean. It’s getting harder to believe in the dream.” He further paints a human portrait of alienation, with the words “People walk by, don’t seem to care…gotta find a refuge for all this despair.” And that’s where “the blues” comes in. Kudos go to backing vocalist Raye Williams and keyboardist Jim David. They really drive this sentiment home, with their rich lyrical accompaniment. The track “Blue House” is kind of a nod to Jimi Hendrix’s “Red House.” It’s a slightly ironic or humorous twist on the old backdoor man theme. It’s a cool I-IV-V vehicle for the “Badman” to throw in some subtle, yet tasty and ripping leads. “When Luther Came to Town (For Luther Allison)” is a tribute to the album leader’s hero and musical mentor. Keith once shared a stage with the master and it’s a fitting tip of the hat to a blues guitar legend. End times and possible environmental disturbances seem to be referenced in the song “When the Sun Burns Out.” It’s a slow blues featuring notable harmonica from Billy Furman. In the tune Keith asks “When the sun burns out will you ask forgiveness for your sins? Will you cry out to heaven… Open up and let me in?” Vocalist J’Renee Stevenson sings a robust acappella proclamation that opens the song “Rocking N the D.” And then the band follows suit with a rousing boogie groove dedicated to all things Motor City. It’s just a good time track featuring outstanding solos from Evan Mercer on piano and Furman on tenor sax. Keith shifts gears a bit for the Latin-infused “My Treasure.” He pulls out all the stops, with some sweet sustained Carlos Santana-flavored licks. Multi-instrumentalist Josh Ford offers some great percussion here as well. “One of Those Things” speaks to the concept of relationships and that some of the best ones survive when opposites attract. This features a brisk swing highlighted by smooth guitar solos and Mercer’s choice piano passages. “Put Me in the Coffin” is kind of a simple and direct message. Jim David’s organ riffs flow effortlessly through this track as Keith professes a love that, literally, will never die. “Party By Myself” sends a message that, despite being rebuffed by several women he’s contacted, he’ll always land on his feet. Hey, he’s got all his provisions for the evening—snacks, Netflix, beverages, etc. He won’t be sulking anytime soon! When some of these women and so-called friends try to reconnect with him, he’s got the last laugh. “Too Much Information” keeps that irony and humor going, with a stripped down blues track about Facebook and the folly of social media. It’s essentially Keith and Furman laying it down. The “Badman” references those that constantly post stuff on social media “I don’t need to know everything going on in your life….everything you do and say. I don’t need to hear about your perfect life and how you’ve got it so good….when you know damn well we came from the same neighborhood.” Touché! “Blues Caravan” features cool and snappy drumming from Todd Glass. It’s got a real authentic New Orleans feel, with biting slide guitar from Josh Ford. Jim David’s Dr. John meets John Cleary piano textures compliment this piece beautifully. “Damon’s Justice” concludes the album in grand style, with an instrumental that graciously honors the late Judge Damon Keith. Luther’s uncle was a legal titan and civic leader in Detroit. Pianist David and Luther lead the charge and dovetail so smoothly here. It’s a minor, noir-ish piece that wraps things on a powerful note.—Eric Harabadian

Jack de Keyzer
Blue Star Records 2020

Born in London, England, and situated in Ontario, Canada, Jack de Keyzer has been promulgating blues and several of its offshoot genres for over four decades. Along the way he has been accorded several of the highest musical honors that Canada bestows, among them two Juno Awards and seven Maple Blues Awards. In addition to his reputation as a valued session man, de Keyzer has released an even dozen of his own albums.
This latest release, although comprised of twelve original tunes, is appropriately titled because it nods in various ways to some of the figures that have been most influential to de Keyzer. “Coming Up,” for example, features the screaming single note guitar runs that immediately evoke memories of Jimi Hendrix. “Let’s Do It” leads off with a modified version of the classic riff of “Sunshine of Your Love,” one of the classic songs of the 1960s rock power trio Cream led by Eric Clapton, and the first few bars of “Forever,” the closing song of the set, reprise the signature riff of Clapton’s “Layla.” “Supernatural,” with its distinctly Latino flavor and stinging guitar, is surely a nod to “Smooth,” a 1999 song made famous by guitarist Carlos Santana and singer Rob Thomas from their album…yes, “Supernatural.”
Other tribute references may escape me, and the liner notes provide no clues. Perhaps listeners more informed than I will recognize riffs or phrases…but the album can be enjoyed for itself. Energy is high throughout, from the opening cut, “Are You Ready?” which poses the question “Are you ready to boogie?” and answers it with an emphatic yes. The ensuing nearly one hour of songs delves into funk, reggae, pure rock, soul, and a traditional twelve-bar blues, “If My Baby Left Me,” replete with tasty piano and with saxophone instead of the usual Chicago harmonica accompaniment. The set’s highlights include “Supernatural,” with de Keyzer handling some snazzy overdubbed guitar licks, and “You Turned My World to Blue,” one of the few slower numbers, with a nice piano solo and some of Jack’s best vocalizing.
The set’s ensemble is bolstered by the driving rhythm section of drummer Peter Grimmer and bassist Alan Duffy; clear production allows appreciation of the bassist’s contributions, which on many recordings are difficult to distinguish in the sound mix. Nick Succi plays fine piano and organ, and Richard Thornton wails on sax. De Keyzer sings well, and his impressive skills on his six-string range from fiery to lyrical.—Steve Daniels

Elder Charles Beck
Your Man Of Faith
Gospel Friend CD

“The church should have plenty of rhythm. I do not believe we should suppress the spirit. I’ll raise my foot to make a sanctified leg for God. And I’ll play my trumpet until Gabriel, the King of trumpet players, sounds the last mighty blast this old planet shall hear. I’ll join in with that heavenly choir and we’ll march through the Pearly Gates playing “When The Saints Go Marching In,” liners author Opal Nations quotes multi-instrumentalist gospel musician and Holiness and Baptist minister, the Alabama-born Elder Charles Beck (1902-1966), whose “revival sessions” were legendary. Following World War II, the singing evangelist capitalized on the abundance of “indie” labels and recorded with several including Chart, Eagle, King and Gotham. This 26 track project spans the years 1937 to 1956 and includes not only inspired, at times frenetic, takes on traditional gospel songs such as “If I Have To Run,” “I’m Gonna Walk Right In And Make Myself At Home,” “Dry Bones,” “There’s A Dead Cat On The Line, “You Got To Move” and “You Better Watch Your Close Friends” but also Beck-authored, more decidedly dramatic efforts like “Winehead Willie Put That Bottle Down,” “Shouting With Elder Beck” and “Rock And Roll Sermon.” Also noted are startling covers of both Thomas Dorsey’s “Precious Lord” and Roberta Martin’s “Didn’t It Rain.” Another noteworthy release by Per Notini on his well-worth-checking out Gospel Friend label.— Gary von Tersch

The Right To Rock
Various Artists
Bear Family CD

Sub-titled The Mexicano and Chicano Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebellion, this jam-packed 37 tracker is a riveting compilation of Mexican and Latin American artists (1955 to 1963) that pays tribute to the cultural components of the Chicano movement of the 1950s—today as pertinent in terms of border walls and racial segregation as it was then with the musical roots of current artists like Carlos Santana, the Texas Mavericks and Los Lobos aurally evident. Disc-wide the focus is on the tougher side of rock ‘n roll—no “La Bamba’s” here—as famous and near-famous artists such as Trini Lopez (with his anthem-like “The Right To Rock”), Freddy Fender (“Jailhouse Rock” and “Don’t Be Cruel”), Chan “Hippy Hippy Shake” Romero, Eddie Quinteros, Chuck Rio, ill-fated Ritchie Valens (“Ooh! My Head”) and Chris Montez take turns with lesser known COLLEAGUES like the Los Gibson Boys (with a great version of “Good Rockin’ Tonight”), Lalo Guerrero (ditto “Hound Dog”) the Augie Garcia Quintet (“Hi Yo Silver”), Los Teen Tops (“Good Golly Miss Molly”) and Los Xochimilcas with “Rock Rollin’ Rock.” An accompanying 36-page booklet includes bios and discographical info for each artist as well as a detailed introduction to the music’s historical, cultural and unavoidably political backgrounds as well as a profusion of rare period images, illustrations and attendant memorabilia. A real eye-opener!—Gary von Tersch

Skylar Rogers
Self-produced 2021

Add Skylar Rogers to your list of notable Chicago women blues singers; she deserves to join the pantheon distinguished by such vocalists as Mary Lane, Liz Mandeville, Shirley Johnson, and the late “Queen of the Blues,” Koko Taylor.
Rogers, a Chicago native, released an abbreviated album in 2019; this is her first full length album. She has assembled a worthy band to back her, which she has dubbed “The Blue Diamonds”; it’s led by dual guitarists Marty Gibson and Stephen J. Hill. Comprising the rhythm section are pianist Pete Zimmer, bassist Jerry Ewing, and drummer Bradley Arl, who co-wrote two of the ten tracks.
Rogers and her crew term their music “soul rockin’ blues,” and the moniker is appropriate. The set commences with “Hard Headed Woman,” a curt mid-tempo cut more on the soul side of the spectrum, and mines the same vein with the succeeding “Work.” Next up are two somewhat raunchier tracks, “Like Father Like Daughter” and “Failure,” Rogers’ strong singing abetted by stinging guitar contributions. “Firebreather,” the title tune, features crunching guitars, swirling organ, and a thrumming bass line as Skylar emphatically describes a woman not to be underestimated.
The vibe is modified nicely on the ensuing cut, “Movin’ On,” its slower tempo replete with hand claps, backing singers, and Rogers’ insistent gospel-style vocal. She digs deep emotionally on the set’s longest track, the six minute “Drowning,” which is followed by another gospel-like tune, the reverential “Thankful.” The album closes with an adroitly done plea to overcome one’s “Insecurities.”
On “Firebreather” The Blue Diamonds deliver some fourteen carat blues, and Skylar Rogers shows that there is another jewel in the world of Chicago blues.—Steve Daniels

Early Times & the High Rollers!
The Corner
VizzTone 2021

Originally from Sacramento, Early Times has a more than two decade resume as a record producer, label owner, session musician, and Internet blues programmer. He is also, notably, a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who plays bass, keyboards, drums, and, not least, guitar; he won Best Guitarist in the Sacramento Music Awards. He spent a stint as guitarist for blues chanteuse E.C. Scott.
Now ensconced in New York City, he and his band have honed their rock and blues chops on this new release. It’s unique in sporting a unifying theme: tales of street life and characters in The Big Apple. The usual blues tropes of love, unrequited love, lust, lost jobs, and gambling debts take a back seat to indelible sketches of such characters as Mary with her cha-cha hat, Charlemagne, and other lost souls. Comparisons with some of the songs of Mose Allison and especially Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground are appropriate.
Early Times is credited with all the vocals, and his tenor renderings come through clearly – as do all the instruments; production values are excellent. He is also credited with playing all the instruments, although multiple other musicians receive credits as well. Liner notes don’t specify who plays what on individual tracks, but Early Times handles lead guitar throughout, and does a sterling job. Although a few flurries of rapid single note runs appear, more common are sustained single notes in the high registers, imparting a mesmerizing and haunting vibe. Multiple tracks feature overdubbed lead and rhythm guitars; if I’m hearing accurately, a few tunes even have three simultaneous guitars overlaid. On “Someone Help Mary,” the penultimate track, acoustic and electric guitars interplay.
NYC blues rocker extraordinaire Popa Chubbly makes a guest appearance on “She’s About to Lose Her Mind” and provides a dazzling solo. That track also includes the word “chagrin” in the lyrics; how often do you encounter such erudition in a blues song? Actually, the songs’ lyrics are among the strongest aspects of this album…but the band’s expertise should not be discounted: there are shuffles, ballads, wah-wah pedals, swirling organ reminiscent of Ray Manzarek of The Doors, a few jazzy drum solos. There is one terrific instrumental: “Rosie’s Herbs ‘N Ting.” The eclectic set ends with its only full-out rocker, “Return of the Queen,” which sounded to me like a cross between Dave Alvin and Bob Dylan from his “Blonde on Blonde” period; it’s scorching!
I was surprised and delighted by “The Corner”: it rocks, while creating distinct, idiosyncratic, and poignant images.—Steve Daniels

Various Artists
The Birth Of Soul Series: Los Angeles
Kent CD

London’s Ace label has, for years, had well-established connections with a variety of classic Los Angeles labels such as Modern, Combo, Flip, Flash, Money, Dore, Philles and Era, most of which had several charting and near-miss soul singles in their catalogs that soulfully borrowed from the wildly diverse scenes prevalent in The City Of Angels in the early sixties (from doo-wop, gospel and blues to some fantastic girl groups and smooth balladeers) that mixed together to make Los Angeles a quickly-developing soul hub. The cited labels provide the bulk of the 24 tracks on this latest compilation entry in Ace’s ongoing Birth Of Soul series. Highlights include the Mandarins’ “That Other Guy” and the Imperialites “You Better Watch Out Girl” (both authored by prolific songwriter George Semper) as well as “Have You Heard” by the Vows, the Chesterfields’ “Trouble” and Sylvester Stewart’s “Help Me With My Broken Heart” (all involved with brilliant songwriter George Motola) with the Phil Specter produced Darlene Love demo of “Let Him Walk Away” right up there with her best work from Gold Star Studios. H.B. Barnum, with his prolific Little Star label, was also a major player with artists like Bobby Day and Ed Cobb in his stable. Included here is a great duet on “I’m With You All The Way” by Barnum’s two solo stars, Dorothy Berry and Jimmy Norman. Doo wop, in particular, held sway in the fifties in Los Angeles and stuck around longer than in most other areas—numbers by the Composers, the Classicals, the Wonders and Wilks and Wilkerson were on the radio in 1962 but will reverberate with lovers of street-corner soul harmony everywhere. All in all, two dozen tracks that reveal how the city’s soul scene came about.—Gary von Tersch

Mississippi Juke Joint Confidential/ House Parties, Hustlers & The Blues Life
Roger Stolle/
Photographs By Lou Bopp
The History Press

Roger Stolle has owned the Clarksdale, Mississippi Cat Head Delta Blues And Folk Art Store since 2002. He is also a correspondent for various publications, producer of various blues albums and award-winning documentaries including We Juke Up In Here that, incidentally, could serve as a fascinating companion piece to this photo-laden (Lou Bopp is a dynamite photographer!), interview-heavy book. Stolle, throughout, artfully blends his insightful, contextual prose with conversational quotes from a variety of, usually eccentric, juke joint owners as well as musicians, dance-mad patrons and hustlers of all stripes. Early on and working from the inside, he dismisses the idea that “all juke joints are blues clubs, but not all blues clubs are jukes” very convincingly (see the opening chapter “Isn’t Every Blues Club A Juke Joint?)“ The difference between the two I’ll leave to your imagination. Among the most interesting chapters are both Parts of “If The Walls Could Talk” that feature, utterly candid, off-the-cuff, descriptive reflections by the irrepressible likes of not only Red Paden, Big George Brock, Sam Carr, Cedell Davis, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, “Cadillac” John Nolden, T-Model Ford as well as Robert Kimbrough Sr., Steve “Lightnin’ Malcolm, “Big” Jack Johnson, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, James “Super Chikan” Johnson, L.C. Ulmer, Bill Abel and David “Honeyboy” Edwards among a host of others. Another incisive chapter, titled “Welcome To Wonder Light City,” focuses on the wit and wisdom of juke joint performer turned owner Robert “Bilbo” Walker while “Moonshine aka White Whiskey” deals with one of the scene’s “down low” beverages of choice and “The Juke Joint Hotel?” that contemplates the circumstances behind the death of Bessie Smith, the birth of rock ‘n roll, gambling houses and Delta hustling strategies. All in all, the folks that Stolle quotes come across with a sweaty, three-dimensional immediacy that’ll have you up all night long. Well worth tracking down—Gary von Tersch


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