One of the most indemonstrable facts in Chicago blues is who should sit on the female blues vocalist throne. With an aristocracy of female singers that rivals pop music, Chicago has bore and trained the world's finest, and Big Time Sarah is one of the reigning first family. Born Sarah Streeter in Coldwater, Mississippi in 1953, she has sharpened her skills in Chi-Town for over twenty-five years under the tutelage of Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Magic Slim, Louis and Dave Myers, and her mentor Sunnyland Slim. It was under Slim's Airway label that Sarah made her start recording in 1977. She has two previous outings with Delmark; Lay It On 'Em Girls and Blues In The Year One-D-One.
Sarah works closely on this effort with guitarist and arranger Rico McFarland. McFarland shares lead and rhythm guitar chores with John Hill. The excellent keyboard action on both organ and piano comes from Roosevelt Purifoy, and the rhythm section is Bill Hargrave on bass and 'Curfew' Scott on the drum kit. Kenny Anderson plays trumpet and arranges the horns on two tracks. Following his lead are Hank Ford on tenor sax and Bill McFarland on trombone. Matthew Skoller lends his harp to a track, as does Richie Davis on guitar; and Roberta Thomas is heard giving up the background vocals.
Five new tunes here are crafted by McFarland, Sarah, and writer Henry Bolden. She also provides great redoes of classics like Brook Benton's "I'll Take Care Of You" and their composition "Red Dress", which is closely tailored from Tommy Tucker's "High Heeled Sneakers". With an unfailing surety, Sarah belts out each tune with an authority and self-styled presence befitting her on-the-job seniority. With McFarland's cleverly-crafted and cleanly-evident axe skills, this becomes an epitome of modern Chicago blues.
Taking advantage of original material that emphasizes her sweet, but blustery, vocal profile, she also squeezes all available energy into her renditions of the standards like the lead song, "Train I Ride". Surely this biscuit will raise some eyebrows with award nominators; simply because it is so undeniably well done. Hats off to Big Time!
Delmark Records; 4121 N. Rockwell; Chicago, IL 60618: or, www.delmark.com
This review is copyright © 2001 by Mark A. Cole, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.