Thursday, June 28, 2007

Crucial Blues (3 Releases) reviewed by Steve Jones

Crucial Rockin’ Blues
More Crucial Guitar Blues
Crucial Acoustic Blues
Various Artists
Alligator Records

Alligator has just released a new trio of low priced “Crucial Blues” albums to follow up on and continue in the tradition of the five that they have previously put out. For those who would like to sample from Alligators’ catalogue in a variety of blues styles, these 3 CDs and the prior 5 are great ways to see what Bruce Iglauer and Company have to offer. Cuts range from old to new, and all are true to the form advertised in their titles. And for those with more extensive collections of albums, it brings a great sampler from CD’s you may not have in your collection.
I began listening to the new set with “Crucial Rockin’ Blues.” “Last Dirty Deal,” the title track from Coco Montoya’s latest release, is the opening song and sets the stage well for a total of 12 driving and rocking tunes. The oldest of the selections comes from Lonnie Macks’ “Strike Like Lightening” CD, where he and protégé Stevie Ray Vaughn wail away on “Hound Dog Man.” Dave Hole, Roy Buchanan and Johnny Winter tracks come from Alligator’s younger days while the likes of Tinsley Ellis, Lil’ Ed and Lee Rocker fill out the CD with newer selections. The Holmes Brothers, Shemekia Copeland, Guitar Shorty and the Paladins are also featured on this hot little CD.
A dozen of Alligators kings of the ax are featured on “More Crucial Guitar Blues,” a follow-up to their first-ever “Crucial” series release. From Chris Vachons’ steamy solos in the Roomful of Blues “The Love You Lost” from their “Standing Room Only” album back to Son Seals’ “No, No Baby” from his “Midnight Son” CD, we get a great assortment of guitar tracks from the Alligator catalogue. If the likes of W.C. Clark (“Okie Dokey Stomp”) and Little Charlie and the Nightcats (“You Got Your Hooks in Me”) don’t get you going then Albert Collins, Lucky Peterson, Kenny Neal, Elvin Bishop Lutehr Allison, Michael Burks, Long John Hunterand Lonnie Brooks will. You will find it difficult to dislike any of this cuts featuring the best of Alligator’s six string gun slingers.
I saved the CD I thought might be the most intriguing for last. “crucial Acoustic Blues” features a baker’s dozen of selections from non-amped up CD’s that Alligator has given us. Buddy Guy and Junior Wells begin the fun from their “Alone & Acoustic” 1991 CD with a great version of “High Heel Sneakers.” Lonnie Mack with SRV and his brother Billy McIntosh give us a trio of acoustic guitars picking “Oreo Cookie Blues” next. By the time Carrie and Lurrie Bell begin the third track, I knew I’d kept the best for last. I love good acoustic blues and Bruce Iglauer has collected a nice set of songs and artists for this collection. Ann Rabson and Saffire give us one of my favorites or theirs “Sloppy Drunk” from their “Hot Flash” album. Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin with Nappy Brown, John Jackson, Kenny Neal & Billy Branch, Corey Harris, Cephas & Wiggins, Johnny Jones and Billy Boy Arnold, Johnny Winter, Sonny Terry and Koko Taylor round out a nice blues album that does not need a lot of high powered histrionics to make a statement.
These are great set of compilations and a low priced way to build your blues collection plus they are packaged all together on the Alligator web site so you will save even more money. It’s a great deal on some great music!

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