Still remembered primarily as the vocalist for 70's-era southern rock-and-bluz outfit Wet Willie, Jimmy Hall, accomplished on both harmonica and saxophone, has established a reputation as consummate sideman for the likes of Jeff Beck, Jimmy Buffett, and Greg Allman.
His outings as leader have been woefully few and far between. And that's a shame - "Rendezvous With The Blues," originally released on Capricorn in 1996, is an absolutely stellar collection of blue-eyed blues in the Delbert McClinton mold.
Hall has an absolutely classic voice for roadhouse R&B and gloriously greasy blues – slightly ragged and oozing passion from every pore, he absolutely tears through a party-pleasing set that ranges from the flat-out rock ‘n' roll of "That's The Truth" to the slinky soul of the title track, with deep blues (Muddy's "Long Distance Call," here sounding downright dangerous) and an impassioned and utterly spine-tingling take on Sam Cooke's immortal "Change Is Gonna Come" helping to ensure that all bases are covered.
The 2006 re-issue, courtesy of Rockin' Camel Records, includes three bonus tracks, each a gem; a great "That Did It, Baby," featuring dueling harp and snarling slide courtesy of guitarist Jack Pearson, a killer "Night Time Is The Right Time" enlivened by a gritty guest vocal from Carla Russell, and the jazzy instrumental "Duck Soup," a rollicking romp that sees Hall stretching out on the lickin' stick to delightful effect.
Hall's core band – Pearson (who had a hand in composing a few of the originals here), bassist David Hood, and drummer Bill Stewart – provide fine support throughout. All are veterans with an innate sense of tasteful restraint, and Hall's been living and breathing this music for so long he's matured into a master craftsman, every note impeccably placed for maximum effect.
And again, there's his voice. Full of gospel fervor, somehow as gritty as a gravel road yet smooth as aged bourbon, Hall makes everything seem effortlessly easy, his delivery a flawless combination of relaxed phrasing and impassioned testifying.
It's wonderful that "Rendezvous With The Blues" is back in circulation, the three ‘bonus' tracks icing on an already magnificent platter. Well worth tracking down, this one's very highly recommended indeed!