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CD Review
Magic Slim & the Teardrops
"Black Tornado"
BlindPig BPCD 5046
by Kurt Koehler
From the opening cut you get the feeling that you've stepped into a honky tonk just as the first note is struck on what turns out to be a set of 12 strong numbers.

Magic Slim (a.k.a. Morris Holt) is best known for his raw power on the guitar. Slim plays with an authenticity, straight ahead tone, and a naturalness that is becoming rare in this era of guitar clones.

Magic Slim's vocals are also strong, steeped in tradition and delivered with soul. For much of this CD, however, all the vocals, especially Slim's, are just a bit too far back in the mix for my taste -- behind the instruments in both volume and presence. This was most likely meant to be intentionally stylistic -- to simulate the sound as if it were live, but I found it uncomfortable. There are more than a few guitar players who happen to sing poorly enough that the use of heavy reverb sort of hides their vocal flaws -- burying them purposely. Slim can sing, as can his brother Nick Holt, and so can his son, Shawn, who features his fine writing, guitar, and vocal abilities on track #10, "Young Man's Blues."

Whatever the drawbacks I found with the vocal mix, they are quickley forgotten and far over-shadowed by the rest of the music on the CD. This material is just the kind of Chicago's Southside sounds us blues junkies crave. Check out Hound Dog Taylor's "It's Alright" ala Magic Slim -- fabulous. The feel on this stuff is unmatched. The rhythm section is perfectly in the pocket, nothing is pushed. Slim's guitar is right out front with all of his originality and flair, but not over-processed in any way. He seems to never run out of things to say on the fretboard and he's never boring. Magic Slim's sound is clean and honest, and if that's how you like your blues, don't run for cover before pick up Black Tornado and take it to the cellar with you.

This review is copyright 1998 by Kurt Koehler, all rights reserved.

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