Originally released in Germany under the L & R/Bellaphon label in 1982, this recording is only now being reissued for American consumption. Chicago blues in the eighties was revisiting old formulae with the influences of rock and soul. The Sons Of Blues, formed by Branch and Bell, had become a leading proponent of harder electric blues. The innovative, and often jam-styled guitar, work of the young Lurrie Bell had spurned Billy Branch into some very eccentric harp stylings.
Lurrie Bell, the son of harp man Carey Bell, under whom Branch also studied, was and remains a firebrand guitarist who is as comfortable with Delta stylings or rippin' rock work ala Hendrix. A relative axe master from an early age, Lurrie worked not only with his father but also Eddy Clearwater and Eddie C. Campbell. This biscuit finds Bell at his creative zenith spewing off timely runs and unique phrasings. Growing up at the foot of Chicago blues, Bell and Branch both were schooled under the best. Branch sharpened his skills working with Junior Wells, James Cotton, and Big Walter Horton among others. He too was a young, but vibrant interpreter of Chicago blues.
The composition of The Sons at this time (because they changed members quite often during their existence) was Lurrie on vocals and guitar, Billy on vocals and harmonica, Elisha 'Eli' Murray on guitar, J.W. Williams on the electric bass, and Moses Rutues Jr. on the drums. Bell and Branch share the vocal load with Lurrie singing five songs and Billy doing two. Clearly at creative crossroads, Bell and Branch launch into the essence of tradition with Sonny Boy's "Help Me" and later tear up his "Don't Start Me Talkin'". They strike hard on Jules Taub and B.B.King's "Sweet Little Angel" and do justice to another favorite "Breakin' Up Somebody's Home". Closing with Magic Sam's "I Need You So Bad" and Junior Parker and Sam Phillips' "Mystery Train", the pair exult in the standards of their blues forbearers. Lurrie's sharp, crisp, and highly innovative phrasings give a new facet to each old cover. Branch's harp, likewise, echoes sharp deliveries and extrapolations of the traditional takes. Vocally, both deliver without soulful pretense; 'cause it's the real thing!
An excellent choice for US reissue; definitely an added gem for any collection. Branch and Bell remain active, with separate careers today. Get yourself an insight into where both artists came from, stylistically; and get a better understanding of the real Chicago blues roots of harp man supreme Billy Branch and wunderkind guitarist Lurrie Bell. Put this in line for reissue recognition with the award committees. Pour a drink, grab the headphones, and reward yourself with a listen to this biscuit!
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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.