True Blues review…May 29, 2013…

VARIOUS ARTISTS

TRUE BLUES

TELARC 33815-02

HOOCHIE COOCHIE MAN–MOTHERLESS CHILDREN HAVE A HARD TIME–EVERYBODY OUGHT TO MAKE A CHANGE–DONE CHANGED MY WAY OF LIVING–SATURDAY BLUES–BRING YOUR FINE SELF HOME–ROBERTA–C.C. PILL BLUES–PRAYERS AND PRAISES–GALLOWS POLE–THAT’S NO WAY TO GET ALONG–MAILBOX BLUES–RAMBLIN’ ON MY MIND

 

     “True Blues” finds several of the finest players on today’s contemporary blues scene live in notable venues throughout the country doing what they do best–telling stories thru the use of their music.  Taj Mahal, Guy Davis, Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Phil Wiggins, and Shemekia Copeland have all played the blues for most of their lives, but for this collection, they wanted listeners to experience what they feel as they play–that the blues is much more than just music, but a celebration of life, from its most exhilarating joys to its deepest pains.  Their music, and the way they deliver it, speaks volumes for the blues as a way to heal one’s pain or just talk about the good times.

 

     An extended intro leads into Alvin’s brooding look at the hard times of “Motherless Children,” while the traditional “Gallows Pole” finds him describing ways to escape the hangman’s noose of a Jim Crow south. Both of these were recorded at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D. C. 

 

     Taj Mahal, perhaps this group’s “elder statesman,” lightens things up a bit, adding humor to his original tales of L. A. and its “wild women” and dense smog, with electric versions of “Done Changed My Way Of Living,” and “Mailbox Blues,” recorded at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, Maryland.  Phil Wiggins does lead vocals and harp and is backed by Alvin on the rousing “Roberta,” while Shemekia Copeland turns in a sultry, sexy read of her father Johnny’s “Bring Your Fine Self Home,” done at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York.

 

     Two other tunes from that venue served as our favorites, and bookend the album.  the opening ‘Hoochie Coochie Man” finds Guy, Corey, and Alvin trading the swagger-filled verses of this Willie Dixon gem, as Phil blows sweet fills all over it.  Add in Shemekia for the finale’, a cool mix of “Ramblin’ On My mind” and “That’s All Right,” and this portion brought down the house!

 

     “True Blues” accomplished what it set out to do–show how the blues of today evolved from its African roots, thru the Mississippi Delta and the cotton fields, before turning northward after WWII to the Big Shoulders of Chicago.  And, with some of today’s best talents as ambassadors for this music, this is a set that should not be missed.  Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

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