Monday, February 25, 2008

I Just Keep Lovin' Him reviewed by Mark Thompson

I Just Keep Lovin' Him
A Tribute to Little Walter
Dennis Gruenling
Backbender Records
14 tracks/58:27

Little Walter Jacobs cast a giant shadow over all of the other blues harmonica players of his day and any others who have come along since his tragic demise. Walter had it all - exquisite tone and phenomenal technique combined with a creative genius that allowed him to redefine what was possible for blues harp players. Whether you look at his classic work with Muddy Waters or his solo efforts, Walter blew like a force of nature. His recorded legacy remains so influential that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has seen fit to honor Little Walter by inducting him into the Hall next month in the "Sideman" category.

Dennis Gruenling is an outstanding harp player who lists George "Harmonica" Smith as his main influence. But Smith was a disciple of Walter's, to the point of billing himself as Little Walter Junior early in his career. Smith even dedicated his first recording to Walter's memory. Now Gruenling has decided to craft his own tribute to the greatest blues harp player of all time. If you aren't familiar with Dennis, a quick look at the lineup he has assembled for this project will dispel any questions about his abilities. Kim Wilson, Rick Estrin (Little Charlie & the Nightcats) and Steve Guyger (Jimmy Rogers) take turns on vocals and each adds his own distinctive harp style to the disc. Most of the guitar parts are handled by the great Rusty Zinn and the talented Dave Gross.

Right from the start, Gruenling shows that he is not about to simply recreate some facsimile of Walter's greatest hits. Instead, he has selected minor masterpieces from the Little Walter catalog as the foundation for the project. And he also quickly proves that he is willing to develop his own approach to these tunes. On a disc dedicated to a harp player, the first instrumental solo on the opening track goes to Doug Sasfai on tenor sax !! The vocal is handled by Gina Fox. Her deep, sultry voice is a fit for "Up the Line." Gruenling fills the spaces in the arrangement before taking a dazzling solo on the chromatic harp. On "One of These Mornings," Fox manages to keep her vocal under control despite the lively tempo. Gross follows her lead by slowly building the intensity of his guitar solo before Dennis jumps in with a monster tone and creative lines that dominate the rest of the track. Another surprise is the inclusion of "Corbella," a little-known slice of vocal harmony circa mid-1950. Jersey City native "Choice" turns in a booming lead vocal that Gruenling's solo matches in energy and power.

Steve Guyger may be another unfamiliar name, at least until the second track gives him a chance to establish his credentials. His vocal style is definitely old-school Chicago while his harp work is strong and confident. He really nails the steady-rollin' "My Little Machine." Gruenling fills in behind Steve's vocal until the solo breaks - first Gross getting down & dirty - then Guyger with another concise statement on the harp.

Kim Wilson is acknowledged as a modern day master on the harp and proves it once again with his performances. Listen to how his vocal expertly rides over Zinn's rapid-fire guitar figure on "I Got to Go," setting the stage for a fiery explosion from Wilson on 3rd position harp. Not to be outdone, Gruenling takes the next solo using a different tone but proves to be a match for Kim's skill. Both harp players go acoustic on "As Long As I Have You," which is highlighted by the guitar interplay between Zinn and Bob Welsh.

Dennis trades licks with Estrin on a spirited version of Walter's "Temperature" with Estrin employing his unique vocal tone to great effect. Even better is the slow blues "To Young to Know," done with the signature Muddy Water's slide guitar sound. Estrin and Zinn play complementary lines that weave around each other in expert fashion to form a superb performance that clearly shows Estrin is the equal of the other harp players on the disc.
The instrumental "Hot Shot" serves as Gruenling's master thesis on playing the blues chromatic harp. With Gross laying down thick guitar chords, Gruenling blows an eloquent homage to his mentor. Local harp players will be listening to the deceptively simple instrumental "Teenage Beat" for a long time. The tune is based on one chord and that's more than enough for Wilson, Estrin and Gruenling. They take turns showcasing their ability on the difficult chromatic harp. The solos switch from one to the next separated by a brief guitar riff. It is hard to keep the players straight - better to just sit back and revel in beauty of their contributions.
Gruenling's carefully selected tracklist will delight listeners no matter how knowledgeable they are with Little Walter's work. It is a refreshing change to listen to an entire recording that focuses on an ensemble sound. Veterans like Guyger, Wilson, Estrin and Zinn are long past the need to hog the spotlight and play loud & long. They were the perfect choices to assist Dennis on this project, which will undoubtedly shine more attention on the impact that Little Walter had on blues music. It should also bring some well-deserved attention to the talented Mr. Gruenling for this early contender for the best Blues recording of 2008.

Crossroads is sponsoring a CD Release party for I Just Keep Lovin' Him on Wednesday, March 26, at Big Cities Lounge starting at 8 pm. Appearing with Dennis Gruenling will be Steve Guyger and on guitar, Doug Deming, who you may remember backed Kim Wilson on his appearance at Big Cities. This is a show you won't want to miss !!!!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Barstool Blues reviewed by David Stine

Barstool Blues
Bob Levis
Big Paw Records
13 tracks/73:33

You may or may not have heard Bob Levis playing rhythm guitar behind Otis Rush or Lonnie Brooks, but Bob is also heck of a lead guitar player. If you want proof, buy this CD.
Bob suddenly found all the planets “aligned” last fall, and with the help of a financial backer, and fellow area musicians, set out to do his own CD. Since Bob doesn’t sing, he brought in an amazing group of folks you probably heard here and there--Lonnie Brooks, Steve Ditzell, Jimmy Voegeli, Big Jim Johnson, and Larry Pendleton--to help out. Adding guitar to the disc as well are Lonnie Brooks, Dave Wood, Steve Ditzell, and Larry Pendleton. Jimmy Voegeli adds piano and organ. Most of the drumming is done by Marty Binder, with Link Leary sitting in on three tracks. Dave Kaye plays bass throughout the disc. Big Jim Johnson, Teddy Laurence, and Westside Andy Linderman add harmonica. As you can see, besides the “Big Cities’ Mafia,” there is quite a crew of players here.
This CD kicks off with “It Takes Time,” one of my favorite Otis Rush tunes. Steve Ditzell handles the vocals; he and Bob spar on guitars; Voegeli adds nice organ; Ted Lawrence adds harmonica, and the rhythm section is Kaye and Binder. The song is enjoyable and well played although I wish Lawrence were a bit louder in the mix.
Big Jim Johnson sings song two, Bobby Charles’ “Why Are People Like That?” This is a nice version, with Bob adding some Otis Rush-inspired guitar. Players are Bob, Link, Ted, Dave Wood, and Dave Kaye. This is a good example of what Bob calls “the moving and soothing” side of the blues. Big Jim takes some liberties with the original lyrics, all in good fun.
“Can’t Hold Out Much Longer” was picked by Lonnie Brooks and is song three. The cast here is Brooks and Levis on guitars, Westside Andy on harmonica, Jimmy Voegeli on piano, Dave Kaye on bass, and Marty Binder on drums. Everyone adds the right amount of showmanship, keeping the focus on the song and not the solos, as is so prominent in this post-SRV era.
When “Mystery Train” popped up, I thought Oh Oh, not again; but I must say that the song is saved from mediocrity by the arrangement and the execution. We have the choo-choo drumming of Binder, and combined with Ted Laurence’s harp fills and Bob’s added seventh note to the rhythm, this track is a real toe-tapper that sounds fresh for a 50-something-year-old song. Among the many delights on this disc, this is one of them. Big Jim Johnson sings.
Song five is another Rush tune--“Double Trouble.” I have to say that after repeated spins of this disc, this may be my favorite cut. Steve Ditzell and Bob create a very cool groove and both of their performances are first rate. Steve does a great job on vocals, and there is a lot of guitar interchange here, but it is compelling and not boring like a lot of overdone soloing I’ve heard. Great job, guys!
For those of you who make Bob’s Wednesday night jam, “Bar Stool Breakdown” is probably familiar to you. But it was new to me since I don’t venture out on weeknights. This is a nice shuffle with major contributions form Westside Andy, Jimmy Voegeli and Levis. Sometimes instrumentals can be a bit L-O-N-G, but this one is a kicker that ends with a cool harmonica and guitar duet.
Those of you have seen Ernie and the Poor Boys know Larry Pendleton. Bob pulled in Larry to sing and play John Berry’s “I’m Coming Down With The Blues.” As Lonnie Brooks told Larry after the session, he sings it like it was his own. Solos from Bob, Andy Linderman, and lovely piano from Jimmy Voegeli add to another satisfying cut.
Song eight is another Otis Rush (surprise!) tune, “Three Times A Fool.” Again, Bob pulls in Steve Ditzell for vocals and guitar. If you like the blues, eight songs into the disc, you know it’s a keeper. Bob, Steve, and Ted Lawrence nail down the essential blues that got most of us listening in the first place.
Song nine, Bernard Roth’s “Just To Be With You,” also fights for being one of my favorites on this disc. Big Jim Johnson sings over an easy groove provided by Bob, the two Daves, Leary, and Ted Laurence. This could be an outtake from Hoodoo Man Blues. There’s a very easy Junior Wells feel to this song. Again, a favorite.
“Shufflisko” is a Dennis Gruenling-penned tune that is a tribute to Joe Filisko. Ted Laurence picked this tune as a tribute to both men and to show off his chops. Great backing from Bob, the two Daves and Marty Binder. We don’t have Big or Little Walter or the Sunny Boys anymore, but we do have some great harmonica players in Ted Laurence, Andy Linderman, and Dennis Gruenling -- all of whom have played in the area. If you’ve missed any of them, you’ve missed a lot! This song, to me, is a tribute to those players, fighting in the face of millions of wannabe guitar heroes. Nice job, Teddy.
“Now I’m Good” is a Richard Newell (King Biscuit Boy) tune sung by Jimmy Voegeli and aptly performed here with the help from Bob, Westside Andy, Kaye, and Binder. This is maybe the fastest tune on the CD and is a good example of what you might see at a Westside Andy/Mel Ford show.
Mark wanted Steve Ditzell to do a slide guitar tune, so song twelve is Leroy Carr’s “Blues Before Sunrise.” Steve’s slide work carries the song yet allows Bob to contribute without competing. Steve does a great job on vocals. Ace rhythm section, Kaye and Binder are here as well.
The CD ends with “Getting Out of Town” written by Big Jim Johnson. This song oozes Chicago Blues but is a fitting end for a CD of the best of the Rockford Blues men as well. Solid rhythm from Leary and Kaye allow for Bob and Ted Lawrence to create something that sounds like a lost nugget from the golden era of Chicago Blues.
I like this CD A LOT. I would buy it even if I didn’t know any of the people involved. The rhythm section of Leary, Binder and Kaye is rock solid. The soloists are fantastic. The five singers provide a lot of variety and nuance. It is a very solid example of the blues the way I like it played. It is the CD you slip into your player on your way home from a long night at Legends, or Kingston Mines, or B.L.U.E.S. This CD is also a bit of Rockford history. The CD was recorded, mixed, produced in Rockford. It captures twelve songs by twelve men at the top of their game when “all the planets were aligned.”

Raisin’ A Ruckus reviewed by David Stine

Raisin’ A Ruckus
Roomful of Blues
Alligator Records

The 13th album from Rhode Island’s Roomful of Blues features new vocalist Dave Howard along with stalwarts Chris Vachon, Rich Lataille, Bob Enos, Ephraim Lowell, Dimitry Gorodetsky, Mark Early, and Travis Colby. Dave Howard may disappoint fans of Mark DuFrense. I’m not sure Howard has the range; and I think that made for some interesting song choices on Ruckus. The album kicks off with a peppy “Every Dog Has Its Day” . . . .Song two, “Lower On Your List of Priorities” is an up beat rocker penned by Howard. It’s a funny song that breaks no new ground. “Talking To You Eye To Eye” is a jazzy, swinging tune written by sax man Early that lets the horns show off a bit. “Big Mamou” (song 4) is one of those whose need here I question. Is it only to give Howard something more in his range? There are several hints at New Orleans on this disc, so maybe it’s just another subliminal finger pointed at the crescent city, who knows? But, we ask what’s the relevance to the upper eastern seaboard? “Round It Down” is a Travis Colby-penned sing-along. Song 6, “I Would Be A Sinner” moves to a New Orleans second line beat, and would be a winner except by this time I’m growing a bit weary of Howard’s vocal chops. “Black Night” has been a long-time favorite blues song of mine. To me, it captures one of the most common blues themes perfectly--aloneness. Adding this number at song 7 changes the mood, lets Chris Vachon shine on guitar, and also puts the spotlight on Howard with a so so vocal rendering. The pace picks back up with the boogie woogie piano of the Doc Pomus-penned “Boogie Woogie County Girl.” Again, solid but not outstanding. “Solid Jam” is a Chris Vachon number featuring wah wah guitar and my growing appreciation for his clever song writing. “Sweet Petite” although credited to Dave Howard and Tom Ferraro sounds like something we’ve all heard before with Howard’s broken in voice and swinging horns. “While I Can,” (song 11) is a vocal duet with Howard and Bethie Vachon (Chris’ wife) that is reminiscent of Lou Ann Barton in it’s twangy delivery. Ms. Vachon wrote the song and probably insisted on “guesting”--hey, I’m just guessing here. Sounds pretty “Texas” to me. The title tune is an instrumental swinger that is quite unmemorable. At this point the album is running out of steam for me. But what’s this?? A version of “New Orleans”! You know the one that ends Blues Brothers 2000. The one you can’t ever hear again without thinking about the collision of stars on stage? Well, here it is again and, yes, nothing was delivered. From the promise of “Every Dog . . .” we end with a Vachon love song to his wife that is features a clarinet and brings the pace too a waltz tempo. No one knew that long time trumpeter Bob Enos would pass so soon after the release of this disc, but “Life Has Been Good,” the last song is a fitting tribute to the man who gave so many years to this band. RIP, Bob.

Clear Blue Flame reviewed by David Stine

Clear Blue Flame
Delta Moon
Jumping Jack Records

Frankly, I had never heard of Delta Moon before, and I was a little suspicious of this CD when I received it to review: two white guys (with glasses) playing guitar, mandoguitar, steel guitar, organ and DULCIMER! Yikes! How hip could two guys named Tom Gray and Mark Johnson be? As I reviewed the liner notes I did notice that there was a Fred McDowell song at the end of the disc, so, I thought maybe there was some blues here after all.
From the first song, I was hooked. This isn’t a pure blues CD, but if you like Southern Americana with a bunch of slide guitar, this is a great album! There’s a lot going on here. This CD could be the soundtrack to one of those movies set in the South, full of broken down cars, buildings, and down and out waitresses and mechanics. And don’t forget the consistent, rolling trains going by.
The CD starts with the droning, minor-key open-tuned guitar of “Clear Blue Flame” and you know you have hit upon something good. As I discovered, Tom Gray is one of those triple threats that are all too uncommon: songwriter, singer and instrumentalist. His songs are clever, real, and a bit oblique--you never quite know that you know what the song is about. Is “Clear Blue Flame” about love or home-made liquor? “Blind Spot” begins with a funky, driving bass line. I should mention here that this is an ELECTRIC album. There are drums and bass throughout the disc. Again, “Blind Spot” addresses our tendencies to see and not see at the same time. “Money Changes Everything” sounds like it dropped off a Warren Zevon album. Tom Gray’s vocals remind me, at times, of Zevon, Dylan, and Ronnie Wood. As a matter of fact, this disc would make a great companion alongside of any Ronnie Wood CD at your next Guinness party. “Money . . .” is instantly recognizable, even with the fiddle and dulcimer, but from where? Others have covered it and Tom Gray must have leaked it and then decided to record it as he heard it. “Trouble in The House” is, well, about two people not getting along. The song is propelled by a strong bass line and distorted guitar creating a sinister backdrop for lines like, they “stare at each other like two loaded guns.” Good stuff. “Jessie Mae” is a riff-driven tribute to and story about Jessie Mae Hemphill, who died in 2006, and who, I would suspect, was somewhat of an influence on Mr. Gray’s guitar work. “Cool Your Jets” is Ronnie Wood over a “Wade in The Water” slide riff. “Life Is A Song” may be about a girl in a “torn black dress,” or it may addressed to the listener. Whatever, there’s lots of great imagery here. “Stranger In My Hometown” borders on bluegrass with the addition of the mandoguitar and locomotive-paced drumming. The song is about the urban degradation (thank you, Allyson) of one’s hometown into something both familiar and unrecognizable. “Lap Dog” is a guy’s lament. No one wants to be a lap dog. “I’m A Witness,” is a vibrato-tinged guitar testimony to the inequities of life. As I stated earlier, the last song on the CD is Fred McDowell’s “You Done Told Everybody.” This is the most straight forward blues tune on the disc and is delivered aurally and musically so that is sounds like an early blues recording.
Delta Moon made a believer out of me. I want to own this disc and I will look for more. These are two of the hippest white guys I’ve heard in awhile. Are they blues? No, but there’s a lot of slide guitar work here--almost every song. Tom Gray is a heck of a songwriter and Delta Moon delivers an American soundtrack worth being in your home--be it on either side of the Mason/Dixon line.

Roll With You reviewed by Mark Thompson

Roll With You
Eli “Paperboy” Reed & the True Loves
Q-Dee Records
11 tracks/38:03

Eli is a young man with a deep love for real soul music, the kind that harkens back to my younger days when James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and King Solomon Burke could be heard on the radio all day long. At the age of eighteen, he moved from Massachusetts to Clarksdale, MS where he buried himself in the live music scene, particularly blues. Then he moved to Chicago where he played gospel piano in a south-side church while attending school. After a year, Reed decided to return to the East coast and began to form his band.

On his second release, Reed brilliantly captures the spirit of soul music without resorting to a slavish copying of styles. Discerning listeners can gleam hints of his influences on these eleven original tunes. But each track serves as a testament Reed’s songwriting skill. Even more impressive is the amazing vocal prowess he displays throughout the disc. Eli can easily glide up into the falsetto range or drop down in tone while adding a gritty edge to his voice. And he can unleash a spine-tingling soul scream with an unforced, natural ease that is remarkable for a younger singer. He gets fine support from the True Loves, including a three-piece horn section.

“Stake Your Claim” opens the disc with a slinky guitar riff and the horns blasting behind Reed’s impassioned vocal plea for commitment from the woman he loves. The band ratchets up the tempo even further on a storming romp through “Take My Love With You”. Eli’s voice has no trouble matching the band’s intensity – and exhibits restraint by not straining his voice by pushing it too far.

The title cut opens with a deep bass line as this ballad slowly builds in intensity. Reed is supported by a doo-wop harmony vocal. The next track, “She Walks”, is another ballad that has Eli singing sweet and soulful until he can’t contain himself any longer and he shouts for his baby to come home. The band takes a detour down the funky broadway on “The Satisfier” and “I’m Gonna Getcha Back”. Reed even makes a bid to start his own dance craze on “(Doing the) Boom Boom”. The horns wail away, drummer Andy Bauer lays down a big beat and Eli lets loose a series of screams and shouts in order to be heard.

All of Reed’s skills as a singer, guitarist, songwriter and arranger are best displayed on “(Am I Just) Fooling Myself”. This dark tale of love turned bad simmers with raw emotion as Reed slowly builds the intensity of his performance. He squeezes out brief bursts of notes on his guitar to ratchet up the tension, building to a seemingly calm end before he returns with a cathartic vocal explosion that provides a more satisfying conclusion.

It is hard to believe that a 24-year old white man could craft such an original and compelling tribute to soul music. It is apparent that Eli and the True Loves have really done their homework. They offer a fresh interpretation of the music they love. What sets this disc apart is the talent of the leader. Paperboy Reed is a true soul man with talent to burn. Give Roll With You a listen and hear it for yourself. This one is highly recommended !!!

Low on Cash, Rich in Love reviewed by Mark Thompson

Low on Cash, Rich in Love
Eric Lindell
Alligator Records
12 tracks/46:18

After establishing itself as possibly the Blues record label, Alligator has been branching out in recent years. They have released several recordings by former Stray Cat bassman Lee Rocker, one by swamp rocker J. J. Grey & Mofro and now this second disc from the eclectic Eric Lindell. Some purists may feel that the company is abandoning the Blues but these efforts are undoubtedly a necessary move to help Alligator survive in a market of shrinking cd sales.

Lindell is a singer/songwriter deserving of the support that Alligator can provide. A California native, Eric moved to New Orleans in 1999. He immersed himself in that city's diverse musical community, creating a unique blend of blues, funk, soul, swamp rock and New Orleans R&B. The key element is Lindell's thick, expressive voice that drips soul with every note he sings. He has that hard-to-describe edge in his vocals that often conjure visions of a youthful Delbert McClinton - somewhat raw, yet smooth and soulful. He wrote five of the songs on this recording and co-wrote six others with band members Chris Mule (guitar) and Aaron Wilkinson (bass). Every track makes a strong musical statement. Several suffer a bit from simplistic lyrics but Lindell's voice elevate all of the material to generate a fine listening experience.

The disc opens with "Lay Back Down," a blue-eyed soul ballad driven by cascading notes on the guitar. Mark Adams on organ and a horn section expertly frame Lindell's pleading vocal. Next is the title track, a serious slab of funk guaranteed to get your body moving. Things settle into a slow churning rock groove on "Mind Your Business" with Mule on slide guitar and some riffs that would be right at home on a Rolling Stones track.

Other highlights include "Tried and True," a roots-rock number with some fine harmonizing -- and the one cover tune, "Lady Day and John Coltrane," from the pen on Gil Scott-Heron. Lindell alternates between a high energy vocal and some spirited harmonica work. "Miss What I Got" is the kind of performance that have some people comparing Eric to Van Morrison. Jimmy Carpenter contributes a fine tenor sax solo.

"It's My Pleasure" is bluesy rocker with Mule shining on guitar with two fine solos. Lindell invokes the memory of Junior Wells on "I Got a Girl" which is the one true blues track on the disc. Lindell again plays harp but more in a country style than the driving Chicago mode that Wells favored On "It's a Pity," Eric lays down his view of the state of New Orleans over a wah-wah guitar and Adams' driving organ on another funk workout.

This is a strong release from start to finish -- with plenty of variety in the music and a number of stirring vocal efforts from Lindell. Recorded at the Piety Street Studio in New Orleans, the disc has superb sound. This release could be the ticket to garner Lindell and his band the attention that they deserve. It is a fine recording that that holds up over repeated listens. Check it out for yourself - Eric is the real deal.

Live at Rosa’s Blues Lounge reviewed by Mark Thompson

Live at Rosa’s Blues Lounge
Little Arthur Duncan
Delmark Records
15 tracks/65:09

Delmark continues its series of live recordings at one of Chicago’s best blues clubs. This time around the spotlight is on Little Arthur Duncan, a journeyman musician whose long career has flown under the radar for all but the most knowledgeable fans. That changed several years ago when Arthur’s first Delmark release featuring his vocals and harp playing garnered him worldwide attention.

A native of Mississippi, Duncan made to Chicago in the early 1950’s, landing an apartment in the same building Little Walter was residing in at the time. Walter mentored Arthur on playing the harmonica, which helped Duncan secure steady work in the numerous bars featuring live blues music. Eventually Duncan took over ownership of his own club, where he would sit in with band for a few numbers as business permitted. Eventually Duncan was forced to close his establishment, a move that led to him deciding to reestablish his musical career.

Given his age, Duncan’s voice is still in good shape. Early in the proceedings, he announces that he is going to sit down, not because he is lazy but because he is old !! His range is limited but he compensates by singing with a conviction and spirit that enliven his hard-edged vocals. On harp, he plays with a solid tone. Duncan does not have the virtuoso technique of Little Walter. His style finds him using the harp to complement what the band is doing and not blow an endless stream of solos.

The backing musicians – Illinois Slim and Rick Kreher on guitar, Michael Azzi on bass and Twist Turner on drums – are totally in tune with Duncan. On the up-tempo tracks like “I Got To Go” and “ Young Fashioned Ways”, they consistently provide a driving rhythmic foundation that had to inspire Duncan. They are equally adept at handling the shuffles and can inject plenty of emotion into slow blues tracks like “Blues with a Feeling”.

Duncan contributes four original tunes starting with the opener, “Leaving Mississippi” which gets the disc off to a rousing start. “Bad Reputation” borrows a classic guitar line from Howlin’ Wolf’s version of “Shake for Me” and it works just as well for Duncan. The rest of disc consists of covers of well-worn tunes like “Little Red Rooster” and “I Got Love if You Want It” interspersed with less-known gems like Jimmy Reed’s “Pretty Thing” and “I Got to Find My Baby”, which features guest Little Al Thomas on the vocal.

For more than an hour, Little Arthur and his band manage to keep the blues gritty and real in front of a live audience. You once could hear true down-home blues like this on bandstands all over Chicago. The unfortunate reality is that there are a dwindling number of musicians capable of playing together with this much feeling and honesty. This disc reminds us that blues music is not always pretty and neat. In the hands of a veteran like Little Arthur, it can be played with gusto and still sound just right.