John and Sylvia Embry review…December 21, 2013…

JOHN AND SYLVIA EMBRY

TROUBLES

DELMARK   DE-832

WONDER WHY–TROUBLES–LIE TO ME–I’M HURTIN’–I FOUND A LOVE/RAINBOW–GOING TO NEW YORK–MUSTANG SALLY–GONNA FIND MY BABY–EARLY TIMES BLUES–RAZOR SHARP (INST.)–KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF HER–BLUES THIS MORNING–AFTER WORK (INST.)–WORRY, WORRY–62ND ST. LUAU–I LOVE THE WOMAN–JOHNNY’S BOUNCE (INST.)

The good folks at Delmark continue to bring the best in blues to fans world-wide, and they have done it again with another long-lost, rare reissue recording.  Johnny “Guitar” Embry was a prime example of a Chicago blues guitarist who flew under the radar, playing mainly in the clubs on the South and West Side.  He played ’em raw, hard, down, and dirty, a far cry from his gospel upbringing.  His wife, “Queen” Sylvia Embry, also had a gospel background, but was initially known as a bassist for the Lefty Dizz band.

However, John and Sylvia did record an album for Razor Records on January 19, 1979, where Sylvia’s vocals were put prominently on display (at the urging of Bob Koester) alongside Johnny’s fiery fretwork.  The result has been reissued as “Troubles,” encompassng the original LP plus five live cuts, and Johnny’s 45 RPM, recorded the day before the LP.

“Troubles” is a hard-core Chicago blues masterpiece, from a couple who knew their audience, and knew exactly what they wanted, and just how to give it to ’em.  Aside from Sylvia on bass and vocals and John on guitar, several prominent sidemen are present.  Woody Williams is drummer on several cuts, and he serves a Sylvia’s duet partner on a few.  Iceman Robinson adds rhythm guitar, and chips in with a killer lead vocal and guitar on one of the album’s highlights, a six-minute slow-burnin’ “Worry, Worry.”

john and Sylvia were well-versed in not only playing blues, but also popular tunes of the day that they knew the crowd would enjoy.  Check out Sylvia and Woody Williams “testifyin’ to each other on “I Found A Love/Rainbow,” rockin’ the joint on “Mustang Sally,’ and pulling out al the stops for a rousing take of “Going To New York.’

Johnny’s playing is over the top, too, especially on cuts such as “Lie To Me,” “Early Times Blues,” and the rare vocal side of his 45 RPM, “I Love The Woman.”

John and Sylvia Embry represent another of the Windy City’s vast array of talent that, sadly, went sorely under-recorded.  But, “Troubles” brings them long-overdue recognition, and, with recent releases from Delmark celebrating sixty years of blues, the Magic Sam live from Milwaukee’s Avant Garde, and this one from John and Sylvia, they have completed one heckuva trifecta!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow…Nashville Blues Society…

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