America's oldest independently owned blues and jazz label continue their 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2003. This time the commemorations evolve around a saver series of 6 sampler CDs all individually priced at a measly 8 bucks. On West Side Chicago Blues there are 9 songs whose recording dates range from 1967 to 1999. The best of the city's past and present west side guitar slingers and singers are represented for 41 minutes. All of them excel at playing alternating stinging single-note leads with powerful distorted chords.
The production on Otis Rush's "Cut You A Loose" makes it sound like it was recorded in the late 60s. The guitar is heavy and practically psychedelic yet this introspective tune is actually from the mid-70s. You will recognize Rush's anguished voice immediately whereas his stinging guitar is far more raw than its modern day smoothness. Each note legendary Magic Sam picks cuts like a laser on "I Need You So Bad" while his exuberant voice squeaks. You'll dig the 60s mix of the drums in one channel and the guitar in the other. Syl Johnson reunites with the Hi Records house band on "Driving Wheel". They don't mean to take away from Syl's distinctive smoky voice but the Hodges boys really cook especially Charles on organ. "Chittlins Con Carne" is a brilliant instrumental. Its one of those songs that can tweak an initial interest in the blues or re-confirm an allegiance. On it, Jimmy Dawkins' controlled guitar gymnastics are magnificent. Tail Dragger has a traditional Chicago sound thanks to his Howlin' Wolf-like vocals and Eddie Shaw's signature sax on "You Gotta Go". The great Luther Allison performs as a blues trio on "You Done Lost Your Good Thing". It is super raw unlike his final few phenomenally popular releases. Willie Kent and Johnny B. Moore are the undisputed kings of modern day west side Chicago. Willie's laid back groove, "Do You Love Me?", has enough oomph to perk your ears up while Moore's "Sittin' Here Thinkin'" is the real deal. Don't expect extravagance from him, he prefers down home blues that hits you where you will fill it! (He also appears on the Tail Dragger cut.)
Delmark has celebrated their golden anniversary in grand style. Earlier in the year, a special evening of music featuring their artists was held in a Chicago club. Then a raft of reasonably priced CDs hit the market including a 2 CD collection of blues. You can't go wrong with this west side collection even though it runs on the short side. The liner notes are kept to a minimum. They only indicate the original LP/CD that the songs were compiled from along with the musicians who perform on the tracks. All in all, its a great introduction to the amazing world of west side Chicago blues. It comes with a fantastic price tag and it orientates you with Delmark's blues side of their prominent catalog. Like the back cover says, "after 50 years, we've still got it!"
For CDs, booking and information, contact: Delmark Records, 4121 N. Rockwell, Chicago, IL 60618 USA Website: www.delmark.com
Tim Holek-Freelance Journalist/Photographer
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