Every once in a while another hidden gem comes to the surface of the blues. The latest of these is Craig Horton, and it is hard to believe that no-one has seen fit to record him before now: San Francisco Bay based Horton has been playing music for four decades. Along the way he has shared stages with a range of top drawer names (including Little Walter, Chuck Berry, Sam Cook, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy and Freddie King!), and "In My Spirit," which was recorded on California's Bad Daddy Label (www.baddaddy.com) shows some of the reasons why.
"Chest Pain Blues" opens the album in grand style. Lyrically it offers a new twist on the blues standard "Woke Up This Morning.." theme, and the tune sets out Horton's stall very nicely. It is very much in a Texas/West Coast style, complete with horns that can swing yet still pack a punch when required. The guitar influences are fairly obvious (T-Bone, Pee Wee Crayton, and maybe a bit of Freddie King?), and Horton has a smoky but soulful voice that is pretty near perfect for the material here. Just to prove that the performance is not a one off, Horton follows it up with his own "3 Days and 3 Nights," which is another absolute gem.
Somehow, Horton manages to maintain the standard right through the album, tackling a range of styles which include bits of jazz, soul, Chicago blues, and rock 'n' roll amongst others. There are too many highs to report them all, but perhaps the best moments come on the soulful "Is It True," where the horns positively smoulder and Horton's excellent voice is very much to the fore, a piano-driven remake of the late Bill Warren's "Riding in My Jaguar," and the moody "Spellbound," with its churchy sounding organ.
The album rounds off with another remake of a song Horton was involved in from 1962, "Midnight Shuffle." Horton delivers a biographical monologue over the top of the tune, throwing in a few insights into his personal philosophy. It is certainly an original way to end the album, and does offer a pretty good insight into where Horton is coming from. It also leaves you wanting more.
"In My Spirit" is a terrific album, that should see Horton in the thick of things when Award time comes around again. The only problem is which category--can you be the best newcomer if it has taken forty years to make a solo recording? Irrespective of this, Horton has what is takes, he can sing, play guitar and writes some very fine songs, which makes him pretty much the complete bluesman in my book. No discerning music (let alone blues) lover should be without Craig Horton's "In My Spirit."
CD: http://www.baddaddy.com/ for $13.00 with shipping charge of $3.00.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, 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.