On his fourth Electro-Fi release, Little Mack Simmons posthumously has a CD that depicts his musical legacy. The songs included on the 60 minute, 15 track disc were considered by Mack to be his best work. Certainly his 6 originals are nothing less than stellar. Born in Twist, Arkansas in 1933, Simmons became involved with the blues in St. Louis thanks to Robert Nighthawk. In the 50s, Mack held regular gigs at Chicago's infamous Southside clubs. Electro-Fi Records president and founder, Andrew Galloway, witnessed a Little Mack show a few years back and knew he had to record him. This best of disc contains selected cuts from his 3 Electro-Fi releases from the late 90s plus two previously unreleased bonus tracks. Mack's musical style incorporated gospel, country, funk, soul and rock into the blues. You will hear them all here in addition to Simmons being backed by a plethora of Toronto's best blues musicians.
The memories begin with "Leaving In The Morning" which sounds a lot like Washboard Sam's "Digging My Potatoes". It features a gritty, early rock and roll guitar solo intermeshed with hard moving, grooving piano and harp. Mack sets the mood mixing traditional blues on "Let Me Explain My Love" with his heartfelt emoting voice and then goes in for the kill with an effective harp solo. Forget the frantic blowing that is commonplace today. Here lies the genius of an experienced harmonica ace.
If you ever wondered what this man was all about, just listen to the lyrics on "You're So Special". Here he sings what every loved woman needs to hear and what every loved man wishes he could express. Words like: 'I'm gonna lock you in my heart and throw away the key, thank God you are my woman,' and 'I'm proud to be your man', speak volumes of what made this artist tick. It's a catchy number that should have torn up the soul charts. The innovative tone of his harp never sounded better on the acoustic "Hooked On Your Love". His voice is soft and dedicated on electric Chicago Blues song "Revelation Blues". The tune became his signature song and it reflects his deep religious convictions and love of mankind. "Snap Your Fingers" showcases his diverse voice which could be incredibly strong at times as on this country blues.
The cover of Little Walter's classic "My Babe" is just as good as the original. Mack's version maintains the relaxed feel yet packs it with some kick. The fuzzy guitar intro effectively brings the song into the 90s. In the mid 50s, Little Mack came under the musical influence of his wife's first cousin, Little Walter Jacobs. The influence stayed with Simmons throughout his lifetime as evidenced by the inclusion of 2 more Little Walter tunes here. No, it isn't a Chicago Blues All-Star band performing Walter's instrumental "Blue Lite". However, they could easily be the best blues musicians outside Chicago. Tyler Yarema is absolutely outstanding on piano/organ while Teddy Leonard and Morgan Davis buzz on guitar.
With his passing in 2000 from cancer, the blues world lost not only a brilliant innovator but another link to its storied past. This best of collection is a bittersweet affair that reminds us what we lost but allows us to appreciate it forever.
For CDs, and information, write to: Electro-Fi Records, PO Box 191, LaSalle Station, Niagara Falls, NY 14304 Tel: (416) 251-3036 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.electrofi.com
This review is copyright © 2001 by Tim Holek, 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.
Click button to join
our mailing list!