Thursday, June 28, 2007

Live at B.L.U.E.S DVD and Gettin' Up DVD reviewed by Mark Thompson

Live at B.L.U.E.S
Jimmy Burns
Delmark DVD
Gettin' Up
Carey & Lurrie Bell
Delmark DVD

The folks at Delmark Records have been very busy documenting the Chicago Blues scene with a series of high quality DVDs that capture members of their roster performing at different Chi-town clubs. Burns was filmed in front of a packed house at one of the best-known clubs. He is backed by Tony Palmer on guitar, Greg McDaniel on bass and James Carter on drums.
Burns has had a lengthy career of over four decades before Delmark "rediscovered" him about ten years ago. His mixture of blues, gospel and soul creates a unique sound that is a breath of fresh air from the typical blues offerings. "Leave Here Walking", is a Burns original and makes a perfect opening track with it's haunting guitar riff and a driving beat. Burns sings with a powerful voice that can easily slide into the upper registers. Another great track is "Miss Annie Lou" which finds Jimmy pleading for a lady's attention before laying down a soulful guitar solo.
Burns wrote ten of the fourteen songs on the disc, with covers of tunes by Little Walter and Elmore James. Burns also covers two tunes by B.B. King. On one of them, "Three O'Clock Blues", the band is joined by Jesse Fortune who turns in a rousing vocal performance. Burns and Palmer provide some excellent guitar work. The video mixes in footage of the crowd, the barbecue and a fun exchange on the quality of the tamales. Burns even breaks out a slide to liven up things up on "Country Boy
in the City" and "Wild About You, Baby" before closing the set with an energetic take on another original, "Stop That Train".
Father and son are the focus on Gettin' Up. Carey Bell left a hospital in North Carolina, where he was recovering from a stroke, to get back to Chicago in time for the first session on this disc. Recorded at Rosa's Lounge, Carey shows no ill effects from his health issues. His vocals ring out with a rough-hewn edge and his harp playing is as strong and inventive as ever. Check out his use of the chromatic harp on "Hate to Leave you Alone", it's mournful tones setting the mood on this slow blues piece.
As good as Carey is, the real revelation is the outstanding guitar playing of the younger Bell. Lurrie contributes one hot solo after another, with one of his most dynamic forays occurring on a cover of "Baby Please Don't Go". On the second set, recorded three months later at Buddy Guy's Legends, there is a cool shot of Lurrie tearing it up on guitar with a mural of Buddy playing guitar visible behind him. Carey looks a bit more frail but he lays down some outstanding harp licks on "Last Night" before breaking into a spirited run through "Low Down Dirty Shame".
The real gems on this DVD are the last four tracks, recorded the day after the session at Rosa's. Filmed in Lurrie's living room, you get the opportunity to hear father and son playing for each other while sitting on the couch. They start with a brooding take of "Broke & Hungry", with Lurrie giving his dad a strong rhythm foundation. Carey lays down a vocal that is low on volume but brimming with intensity. At the end of the track, Carey asks if they got the track recorded. Getting an affirmative answers, he quickly adds that he hopes they got it. He knew how special the performance was. The duo turns in an equally strong rendition of one of Carey's favorite tunes, "When I Get Drunk". And then Lurrie closes out the disc with a passionate version of the gospel standard "Stand By Me" that may be the best piece of all.
Both discs were recorded with 24 bit High Resolution audio and offer a Stereo set-up plus Dolby and DTS surround sound, which make you feel like you are in the middle of the clubs. Both releases offer several tracks not available on the CD versions. The video is top-notch as well, making both of these discs a real treat. With the recent passing of Carey Bell, his dvd may be of more interest to our readership but I encourage you to give Jimmy Burns a chance, too. Thanks to the crew at Delmark and Bob Koester for these marvelous historical documents - and keep them coming !!!!

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