As if the comic relief of "From Matrimony To Alimony" wasn't hysterical enough, Telarc strikes once again with tongue firmly in cheek. Poking fun at the music industry's compilation craze is "Now This Is What We Call Blues Vol. 420." Someone in Telarc's marketing department definitely has a sense of satirical humor. All joking aside, this is a fantastic collection whether you are new or old to the blues.
Tinsley Ellis is not a blues purist and he never intended to be one. "Hell Or High Water" is hard, southern rock laced with blues-related lead guitar. Tinsley's approach to butt-kickin' music is seasoned and refined. On "Fast And Free", Louisiana's native son, Tab Benoit, celebrates his ancestry using sturdy vocals, definitive guitar playing and distinctive songwriting. Don't expect a bucket full of notes, Tab knows the proper amount that makes a good measure. James Cotton's steaming harmonica depicts an image of a train engine on "The Creeper". This engine sounds like the happiest one on the train track. Sir Superharp certainly isn't slowing down quite yet. In fact, you will wonder where he gets his energy to keep blowing and how his harmonica keeps from falling apart. Joe Louis Walker's "In The Morning" is a song about embracing life and uses offbeat timing. Andrea Re's gospel-like backing vocals are sweet and tread where only angels can. The song sends a strong message about the joy of being alive. Many long for a world where you can turn on the radio and hear wide-appealing blues - this is that type of blues. In a world of similar sounding blues tunes, Jimmy Thackery's "Where's My Good Friend Go" dynamically stands out. "Crazy Over You" is a soul song performed in a modern vein which is destined to become a classic. This is thanks to Luther 'Guitar Junior' Johnson's competent songwriting and Catherine Russell's exemplary backing vocals.
Rounding out this baker's dozen is Paul Geremia, Hoodoo Kings, Charlie Musselwhite, Annie Raines and Paul Rishell, Ronnie Earl and Colin Linden. There is not a lot of information provided regarding the Telarc albums that these cuts have been selected from. A catalog number isn't quite as convenient as knowing the original CD's name. What is known is that the majority of tracks were pooled from the artists' debut release on Telarc. On "Now…" you get 13 songs that never went near a chart. Perfect. Just the way a great blues CD should be. Oh ya, if you are looking for the first 419 volumes in the series, you have missed the joke.
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