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reviews Albums

Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited gets the Johnny Winter treatment complete with screaming slide guitar. There are 13 tracks here and ever yone is stonking! Not a filler in sight. Is it blues? Is it rock-n-roll? I don’t know, but what I do know is it’s just a brilliant album and should be played at a loud volume. Bob Bonsey

LITTLE JOE MCLERRAN FaceBook Blues Root Blues Reborn

Starting off with an Elmore James flavoured and indirectly rather rude My Girl Kay and following it up with a lovely (slightly updated) 20s styled Billy The Grinder, Little Joe immediately justifies the record label’s name – but then, as he writes in the notes, he still listens to 78s. But Joe is no stick-in-themud purist– just listen to the lyrics of the title track and it is apparent that he knows what he is talking about when it comes to social networking, despite his protestations. Born in Boulder, Colorado in 1983, he has been playing the blues in public since he was eight years old, and was in his first band a year later. Although he is often touted as a Piedmont blues player, here he is generally in full band mode – take a listen to the slide guitar driven shuffle Black Hearted Woman, Homesick James lovely Gotta Move (with Joe capturing both Homesick’s slide and vocal sound to perfection) or the driving Corinne. Hobo Blues has a fine old-time jug band sound, and the short bonus track, the instrumental Sixth Floor Glide that concludes this thoroughly entertaining and beautifully packaged album, has a similar knockabout feel. Norman Darwen

LOUISIANA RED When My Mama Was Living Labor Records

Having your father lynched by the Ku Klux Klan is certainly one reason to become a bluesman, but then the back story of such a blues drifter has to include years of anguish and lowlights before the late-life recognition; it’s an archetypal story. Sadly passing away in February 2012, this collection of Louisiana Red hollering traditional blues songs was recorded in the mid-1970s and most of them are being issued for the first time. His main instrument on show here is his skilled harmonica playing, alternating with suitably pained vocals, while his guitar makes space in humble accompaniment. It’s the sensitive pace of delivery that is spell-binding about this man at home with real blues. Supported on a half-dozen tracks, of sixteen in the collection, by the challengingly wonderful Peg Leg Sam and Lefty Dizz, it is a rare treat indeed. Hard to pick out highlights, except to maybe go for those that deliver the rudiments of blues storytelling, namely Got A Girl With A Dog Won’t Bark and I’ll Be Glad When You Are Dead You Rascal You, and, of course, the mesmeric title track. Gareth Hayes

MARK HARRISON Crooked Smile Independent

Recorded at the Livingston Studios in Wood Green, London, Mark Harrison’s sophomore album is a follow-up in similar vein to his debut Watching The Parade. It’s a comforting act of low-key folky and rootsy blues numbers that give Harrison plenty of opportunity to roll over his National guitar with suitable vigour, whilst delivering his poetic self-penned songs in iconic scratchiness. The songs segue sweetly into each other with no distinct difference in flavour (that’s a good thing), except to be interrupted by the mid-album number Lay Your Burden Down where Josienne Clarke shines with figurative focus. A fine cast of guests and colleagues add width with harmonica, mandolin and double bass all at the right time. Harrison is well schooled in the discipline and knows exactly how to tag the song, whether that be for the ritual Honeyboy, or the reflective Blessed. The low-key rumble is particularly ironic for the album’s closer,

Reckless, and sums up his whispering profundity. Gareth Hayes

MUDDY WATERS Vol. 2 King of The Chicago Blues 1951-1961 Frémeaux & Associates 3 CD set

As Chuck Berry astutely wrote; RolI over, Beethoven – tell Tchaikovsky the news. I make no apologies for proclaiming the blues to be the classical music of the pop world. As such, with the epic European composers, it’s damned difficult to decide who, among Beethoven, Mozart, Mahler or Bach, is more important. The same goes for what came out of Mississippi and Chicago. I listen to Howlin’ Wolf and say ‘yeah – he’s the man...’ then you’re faced with Robert Johnson or John Lee Hooker… yet in the end McKinley Morganfield, aka Muddy Waters, has to be the Beethoven of Blues. This three-CD set of 30 tracks apiece is Muddy Waters at his peak. It kicks off with the atmospheric Long Distance Call and the suggestive Too Young to Know, and includes some lesser-known tracks such as Stuff You Gotta Watch and the curious Iodine in My Coffee. CD 2 plunges headlong into the Willie Dixon/Chess classics, including Mannish Boy and Hoochie Coochie Man, Mojo and Close to You, and the third CD, entitled The Crossover, takes us through a buzzing 1961 with nuggets like Tiger in your Tank, Messin’ with The Man and I’m Your Doctor. Fair makes your hair stand on end. Having had the privilege of seeing this giant live in 1982, hearing of his death aged 68 the following year felt like a body blow to the blues. He was so important in so many ways. There isn’t a voice to match his gritty, meaningful delivery. His slide guitar work on that battered Telecaster always thrills, and as for rock’n’roll in general, every guitars/bass/drums combo since owe him a debt. He invented the classic electric blues band line-up, and always had the very best harmonica players, among them Little Walter and Junior Wells, all featured

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