In the mid-1980's Wallace Coleman retired from his day job of 30 years, moving from the loading dock into the spotlight, where he played harmonica for the legendary
Robert Jr. Lockwood. After a decade under Mr. Lockwood's tutelage Coleman graduated with honors upon the release of his eponymous solo debut that combined
loving renditions of personal favorites with well conceived original material. His sophomore effort "Stretch My Money," followed, further enhancing his reputation as both interpreter and original artist.
"Live at Joe's" earns Wallace Coleman his masters' degree in Post War Chicago Blues. Coleman and band swing sweet and true through twelve tracks that very
well could have been recorded 40 plus years ago. In fact, many first were. Little Walter's "Juke," "One More Chance With You" and "Tell Me Mama" hark back to
the halcyon days and Coleman's major influence. Also from that era are Willie Dixon's "Old Fashioned Ways," "Lonesome Room Blues" by Muddy Waters and the Jimmy
Rogers double shot: "You're The One" and "My Last Meal." Each rendition is nearly flawless in approach and execution.
Unassuming and reed thin, Coleman speaks softly and carries himself not with a swagger, but rather the relaxed gait of a man at ease with his abilities. He has a clear understanding of what his blues should be and this subtle authority pervades the working
relationship between leader and band. Guitarists Tim Matson and Mike Modlin provide in the pocket rhythm and inventive fills while never overstepping their boundaries within a harp driven ensemble. The rhythm section of Dean Roach (bass) and drummer Fred
Goodnight do their part also. They contribute rock steady grooves that drive through insinuation instead of brute force.
Originals, while few in number, are among the set's highlights. Slow Blues "Hard Life," fits in seamlessly with the classic material that surrounds it. Mournful guitars wail in solemn lament while the fat chromatic harp tone is offset by Coleman's plaintive pleas. "Love Spell," features smooth backup vocals and swinging guitar from composer Jody Getz. "Big Dog Blues" bemoans the loss of attention, not to mention cash, when a puppy that's meant to provide company for a lonely mate grows into an oversized eating machine.
Coleman tips his leather cap to mentor Lockwood and his stepfather Robert Johnson with a loving version of "Kind Hearted Woman." Matson and Modlin combine on
acoustic guitar to approximate the legendary Johnson/Lockwood style with solid results. The Crusaders' instrumental "Way Back Home" provides a sweet surprise, closing out the set on a joyful note. The title "Live at Joe's" refers to the recording process. According to the liner notes, each musician was in control of their own sound, being individually miked, with all channels then mixed live to digital stereo. More important than the vintage sound achieved is the authentic feel captured here. This is real blues done right by a man who'll, hopefully, be treating us to more of the same for many years to come.
Pinto Blue Music
P.O. Box 112202
Cleveland, OH 44111
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