Success has not been as favorable to John Brim as it has to many of the Chicago compadre with which he worked and waxed during the heyday of Chicago blues. The Kentucky-born Brim came to Chicago in 1945 and soon fell in playing with John Lee Williamson (Sonny Boy I) and Doc Clayton. He moved about through the area playing with Jimmy Reed, Eddie Taylor, Willie Kent, Robert Lockwood Jr., Little Walter Jacobs, the Myers Brothers, and Fred Below. He is heard on sides from Parrot, JOB, Chess, and Tone-Cool, and other labels also grace his discography. He has also worked of late with Pinetop Perkins, Bob Margolin, and Jerry Portnoy (all former Muddy Waters band mates).
His Authorized Blues, released on the Anna Bea label, contains older songs dating back to the 1950s. Joining him on different sessions are piano man Roosevelt Sykes (two duet numbers and another with wife Grace Brim drumming); Sunnyland Slim on piano and Moody Jones on bass (four songs); and with Eddie Taylor, Sunnyland and Grace (two tunes); with bassist Big Daddy Crawford, guitarist Pete Franklin, and Alfred Wallace on drums (two tracks); and two final cuts with Grace and son, John Jr.. All but the last two cuts (dating to 1971) come from 1951 and 1952 sessions.
The songs reflect the root material from early in the fifties that was morphing into the Chicago ensemble blues sound made famous by Muddy and the Wolf. John Brim was there at the pivotal moments in Chicago blues history, but due to several factors never enjoyed the success shared by many of his peers. The on-again-off-again musical career of Brim saw him coming out again after the death of Grace in 1999. His expertise has come to play with his new and current band, The Tough Time Boys.
Jake's Blues , also on Anna Bea Records, is Brim backed by that band. Brim's guitar and vocals are supported by veteran Chicago axe man Billy Flynn and Jan Arenas on guitar. Matt Laban on drums and P.T. Pedersen on bass lead the engine room action, while Rick Gerek lays out the howlin' harp lines. With a much more contemporary flavor and cleaner recording techniques this is still the same steady John Brim blues. A staunch traditionalist, Brim continues to write with little elasticity, but again pumping classic structures and refined harmonic balance.
Brim writes with a contemporary tenacity that speaks of social problems ("Why I Sing The Blues"), or his instrumental lamentation on "Walk With Grace", or the ultimate blues of love and love lost ("You Put The Hurt On Me"). Take the slow ride with John Brim's authentic, self-removed Chicago blues. One disc is filled with historic players and sessions that defined Chicago in the early 1950s, while the latter disc gives an unbridled look at the traditionalist he remained. John Brim's action is the real deal, and if I were you, I wouldn't miss out on either of these excellent platters.
Anna Bea Records; P.O. Box 24003; Brown Deer, WI 53224: or, www.JohnBrim.com
This review is copyright © 2001 by Mark A. Cole, 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.