Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Longtime Friends in the Blues reviewed by Mark Thompson

Longtime Friends in the Blues
Tail Dragger & Bob Corritore
Delta Groove Music, Inc.
10 tracks/53:29

Let's make it clear right from the start – this is one of the best traditional blues recordings you will hear this year. Co-leader Bob Corritore is the owner of the renown Rhythm Room club in Scottsdale, AZ, host of a blues radio program, the producer of this project and many others, as well as being one of the best blues harmonica players around today. With the passing of Pinetop Perkins, Henry Gray is now the dean of the blues piano players, first getting recognition for his lengthy stint in Howlin' Wolf's band. Kirk Fletcher and Chris James are well-schooled in the traditional Chicago blues styles. The rock-solid rhythm section is comprised of Patrick Rynn on bass and Brian Fahey on drums.

The star of the show is singer Tail Dragger, whose given name is James Yancy Jones. He has been working clubs throughout Chicago since the early '70s, earning his stage name from Howlin' Wolf. Tail Dragger would often take the stage to fill in when Wolf took a breather. His deep, raw-edged voice is not for the faint of heart, his raspy voice conveying emotions on an elemental level. All but one of the ten songs were written by Jones.

Whether it's a shuffle like “Birthday Blues” or a brooding slow blues like “She's Worryin' Me”, the band is locked in tight while Tail Dragger belts out stories with familiar themes like love, cheating women, alcohol and the ravages of time. He delivers an energized performance on “So Ezee” with the band setting a wicked pace. On “Through With You”, Tail Dragger takes his time telling his woman that he wants her but she has to give up her other man. The interaction between James and Fletcher's guitars with Corritore's harp highlight “Please Mr. Jailer” as Tail Dragger pleads for justice from legal system for his falsely accused woman. He adopts a more subdued approach on “Cold Outdoors”, done in the Jimmy Reed style
Henry Gray shares the vocal duties on the lone cover, “Sugar Mama”, his lighter tone providing a nice contrast to Tail Dragger's more forceful singing. On “Boogie Woogie Time”, Gray rocks the house with his superb piano playing as Tail Dragger exhorts his friend on with stories from their past. Corritore's contributions are another key to the recording's success. His eloquent fills and dynamic solos are a constant delight throughout the disc.

These days blues music seems to be headed in a lot of directions, many with only tenuous connections to the music's heart. If you have a real appreciation for the electric Chicago blues music from back in the formative days of the '50s, this disc will take you back to those glory days. Superb effort that is highly recommended!!

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

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