"Remember Me" is the latest recording from Chicago and Maxwell Street legend, Jimmie Lee Robinson, and his first on APO. This is the third APO recording that I have reviewed and I continue to be impressed with the quality of their recordings and the "live in the studio" feel that they generate. This is especially significant for this CD, because in order to fully appreciate Jimmie Lee Robinson's work, it is important to see him perform live. Having seen Jimmie Lee perform live two times prior to listening to the CD, I can attest to the fact that this is what you would hear from Robinson in a live performance.
Robinson performs solo on "Remember Me," accompanying himself on guitar and jangling spurs (Yes spurs, as in the things you wear on your boots for horseback riding). The CD opens with "My Name Is Jimmie Lee," an autobiographical "talking blues" that offers several biographical facts of note. First, Jimmie Lee Robinson was born in 1931 at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. He began playing on historic (and endangered) Maxwell Street at age 11 and carried on through World War II and the Korean War. For those who are not familiar with Jimmie Lee Robinson in more current times; he has been very active in the movement to preserve Maxwell Street as a historic site where many well known blues musicians made their living on the street and in the clubs. Earlier this year, Robinson went on a fast to protest the initiative by the University of Chicago to turn the historic Maxwell Street area into a multilevel parking facility for the University.
After his brief biographical sketch, Robinson offers a combination of original songs, covers of songs by Freddie King ("See See Baby"), Muddy Waters ("Rollin' and Tumblin'"), Lowell Fulson ("Three O'Clock In The Morning") and adaptations of songs that Robinson takes as originals. The 13 song CD offers some interesting sounds and variations for lovers of acoustic blues, including some interesting solo breaks with Robinson whistling on "See See Baby" and humming on "Wait For Me." In addition to the biographical "talking blues" presented on "My Name Is Jimmie Lee," Robinson also talks his way through "The Boll Weevil," an interesting story of a family of boll weevils and their destructive march through a Southern cotton field despite the pleadings of the needy farmer. Robinson offers a jazzier feel on "See See Baby" and a more traditional blues sound on "Three O'Clock In The Morning" and a John Lee Hooker-like boogie on "Rosa Lee."
On several songs, Robinson has clearly taken musical elements and/or lyrics from other songs and adopted them as his own. This is especially evident on "Boss Man," which definitely harkens to Jimmy Reed's, "Big Boss Man" and "Wagon Wheels," a song that offers critical elements of Muddy Waters’, "Rock Me Baby." One other prime example of Robinson's adaptation is "I Will Be Your Dog," a song that sounds a lot like Waters’ "Baby Please Don't Go." Despite Robinson's adaptation and adoption of these songs, I still enjoyed all three immensely. Robinson's more original songs including "Remember Me" and "Wait For Me" are also excellent tunes and offer a more original sound from Robinson.
Jimmie Lee Robinson is a Chicago treasure and a strong supporter of the traditions of Chicago and Maxwell Street blues. The "Lonely Traveler" has put together an excellent CD and with the introduction of "Remember Me" by APO to a national audience, it is possible that Jimmie Lee can introduce his music to an even larger audience. If you ever get an opportunity to experience Jimmie Lee Robinson live, DO IT! If not, buy "Remember Me" and hear what you have been missing.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.