Stony Plain 2021
Roots, rattle and roll: old bluesmen revisit their tuneful haunts and, having fun along the way, find new places to lay their heads.
Blues is a way to counter misery rather than get drowned in it: this coterie of kindred spirits could tell you as much when they went down to Coldwater, Mississippi back in 2007 and started jamming on well-loved classics and original cuts. The pleasure the veterans derived from doing that in each other’s company and various combinations of players on particular tracks is palpable on record, seeping through every single groove on the first volume of what was preserved for posterity there and then. And now the second part of those sessions sees the light of day to bring forth more immediacy – as signaled by snippets of studio chatter which precede a few numbers on offer here.
The ensemble lay it thick, greasy and tasty from the first licks of Charlie Musselwhite’s harp on “Blues For Yesterday” that rocks to and from on a serrated riff – the riff as sharp as the one driving the cover of “Messin’ With The Kid” which the late Jim Dickinson delivers and sprinkles with tinkling ivories to let son Luther pour electric guitar all over the infectious shuffle. The punchy call-and-response of Alvin Youngblood Hart’s Farfisa-splashed take on Doug Sahm’s “She’s About A Mover” doesn’t fall far behind, though, and neither does Jimbo Mathus’ “Searchlight (Soon In The Morning)” whose dynamic scope and sway intensify along the way. Yet while Musselwhite’s deceptively laidback, slider-caressed “Black Water” becomes vibrant too and forays into the “Whole Lotta Love” territory, the group’s relaxed reading of “Oh Lord, Don’t Let Them Drop That Atom Bomb On Me” reveals their communal unity and nuanced instrumental sensibilities, especially in mandolin and piano departments.
But if there’s a bit of urban sophistication in Dickinson Jr’s wordless version of “Blue Guitar” and several other cuts, Youngblood Hart’s “Millionaire Blues (If Blues Was Money)” explores country lanes, also with mandolin in hand, whereas “Blues Is A Mighty Bad Feeling” stresses the genre’s power. So yes, they don’t make ’em like that anymore, because there’s no need, as most of the artists who play on this record are alive and well and still counter misery by sending music to the world.