The Big Town Playboys
Jo Ann Kelly
(Indigo Records - UK 2001)
by Craig Ruskey
Review date: June 2001
1999 KBA Award Winner|
Achievement for Blues on the Internet
Presented by the Blues Foundation
New from the Indigo label in London, here's one that should raise a few eyebrows, T-Bone Walker recordings from 1966. The 'live' sound isn't explained, but could possibly be from concert rehearsals or a cavernous studio. Walker was signed to the fledgling Jet Stream label at the time, and these were waxed for the Home Cooking LP. The band credits go to Willard Burton on piano and organ, Jimmy Jones on bass, and an unknown drummer who manages the perfect shuffle and slow blues grooves. Not listed in the credits (but mentioned in the liner notes), the guitar work of Joey Long is fairly strong, especially on the title track, "Back On The Scene." From two sessions in Houston and Pasadena, the twelve tracks show Walker in good form, though not quite as strong as his 1940's or 50's sides. His voice had more of a gruff quality now, after years of hard drinking and smoking, but after almost thirty years as an electric guitarist, he retained the slurred phrasings, double stops, and completely unique sound he had developed a quarter-century prior to these dates. Playing time is short at only 38 minutes and sonics need to be considered since these aren't today's standards, but remastering has helped considerably. While not a necessary purchase for everyone, these efforts by T-Bone Walker are certainly better than some of the dismal attempts from around the same time period. Indigo (IGOXCD 540Z) has a release date of June 4th for this one.
Here's a band that everyone should hunt down and give a serious listen to. The Big Town Playboys are back with "Western World" (IGOXCD 546) and perhaps better than ever before. With former frontman Mike Sanchez now pursuing his own thing, Ian Jennings, the only remaining member from the original lineup, has reassembled this storming outfit with Big Joe Louis leading the charge. With a voice that resembles a number of blues shouters, Louis blazes through a setlist of New Orleans, by way of Chicago, by way of Kansas City, by way of California, blues and R&B that'll have you wondering why you hadn't heard of these guys before. West Weston's harp shows up only on "Do What You Want To Do," but makes a strong statement, and Dave Wilson handles the guitar chores with ease managing a few exceptional breaks here and there. From Pee Wee Crayton's "You Know - Yeah" to L.C. McKinley's "Nit Wit," the pen of Big Joe Louis went to work for the chugging "Hurry Up Train," sounding like a Saturday night in the Crescent City, while "Tailor Made" and the two other Big Joe Louis contributions stand easily alongside the covers, including Percy Mayfield's gem, "Life Is Suicide." Each and every track here is between the two-and-a-half-to-three-and-a-half minute range and there are no pyrotechnics or flashy solos. This is the some of the finest horn-fed blues from across the pond in a while. Look out for this one on June 4th - you won't be disappointed with any of the 45 minutes of great music here.
Jo Ann Kelly was blessed with a voice that was perfect for blues. Whether squalling like Memphis Minnie or growling like Ruth Brown, Kelly had a touch that few others could match. Her untimely death in 1990 left a void in the UK that hasn't been filled, and probably won't be. Mooncrest Records has issued "Tramp 1974" (CRESTCD 063) which reminds everyone what a singer this person was. These sides feature Kelly's strong vocal performances backed by a variety of names like Bob Hall, Bob Brunning, Keef Hartley, and some with Danny Kirwan's potent guitar wrestling. All from the Spring of 1974; be it the studio work, which is mostly blue-eyed soul, or the 'live' and bluesier tracks, everything here is fine. Kelly's studio take on Lucille Bogan's "Jump Steady Daddy" with just Bob Hall's piano backing is worth the price of admission alone, and the other 55 minutes sparkle with the 'live' reading of "Baby What You Want Me To Do," from Jimmy Reed's songbook, standing out. Willie Cobbs' classic "You Don't Love Me" is tough (though credited to McDaniel), while the closer, Mississippi Fred McDowell's "You Got To Move," is especially heartfelt. This is the third volume of Jo Ann Kelly on Mooncrest and stands well next to Volume 1 - "Key To The Highway" and the second dose in "Talkin' Low."
New Indigo reviews to come are the Jazz Gillum compilation, "It Sure Had A Kick," and the 'live' recordings of Willie Dixon and Jimmy Reed on "Big Boss Men," while Receiver Records, a subsidiary of Trojan Sales Ltd., is set to release the second two-disc set of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, titled "Show-Biz Blues," on June 25th. This is a companion to the "Vaudeville Years" double-CD, and features all previously unissued tracks from 1968 to 1970. www.trojan-records.co.uk has all the pertinent info and will answer more questions. Stay tuned for more...
This review is copyright © 2001 by Craig Ruskey, 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.
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