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CD Review
Snooky Pryor
"Can't Stop Blowin'"
Electro-Fi 3359
13 Tracks, 62 mins
By Gordon Baxter
Mr. Snooky Pryor has just come up with one of the best Blues CDs ever made! "Can't Stop Blowin'" should be on everyone's list of essential CDs. From the moment when Snooky sets the tempo for the opening track "Slow Down," right through to the closing notes of the solo ballad "Boots 'n' Saddle" this is a feast of Chicago Blues at its very best. It amply demonstrates that the Blues is very much alive and kicking. It's hard to believe that it's close on 55 years since Snooky Pryor became the first person to amplify the harmonica during the formative years of postwar Chicago Blues down on Maxwell Street. Still, as Snooky himself says in the accompanying notes: "I'm old, but I'm hell."

Snooky is given a very sympathetic backing by a band mainly made up of Toronto Blues veterans, who have previously worked with him on tour. Rising star Tyler Yarema also appears on piano on several tracks. There's an added bonus on five tracks too, where Snooky's old sparring partner Mel Brown guests on guitar. The way they combine together is a joy to behold, especially when you consider that Snooky doesn't believe in multiple takes, so what you are hearing is pretty much exactly as it was laid down in the studio. Snooky is a firm believer in just cutting it, because you've either got it, or you ain't, and believe me, they've definitely got it, which explains why it only took two days to record this masterpiece.

"Slow Down" opens the proceedings with a fairly standard twelve bar, and gives a few hints of what is to come. It positively rocks along, with the piano and harp in perfect harmony, Snooky in fine voice, and Mel Brown just ticking over for the most part, but stepping forward to do his thing right on cue. The tempo is then stepped up on "I Got to Give it up," which describes how Snooky considered giving up music. Thankfully he didn't!

There are some things Snooky won't be drawn on, however. One of them is the reason why he's called Snooky; the other is the story behind a few of his songs. He's happy to talk about most of his songs, however, which are largely based on personal experiences. These include "Don't Won't Worry About Me" a moving account of his devotion to his late wife, Louella, on which Snooky's plays harp in a style most often associated with Jimmy Reed.

On "I Been Crucified" Snooky describes some of the travails he's had along the way, which included giving up music for a while. He says he won't let nothing stop him, and on this form he's unstoppable. As if to prove his point, he immediately cranks things up on "I Heard the News," and yes, there is good rocking tonight. And just to cap it all off he brings the proceedings to a close with a solo piece on which he demonstrates the use of the third position on the harp, a technique which he invented and first recorded in 1947 on "Stockyard Blues." The man is a real star.

It makes no difference whether the song is up tempo, low down, twelve bar, shuffle, or ballad, the end result is Blues straight out of the top drawer. What's more you can sense that the band had a real ball recording this CD, and one or two of Snooky's asides have been left in at the end of some of the tracks.

So, do yourself a favor, go out and buy TWO copies, and give one to a friend just to show them how good the Blues can be. If this CD had appeared earlier it would have been a winner in the Handy awards, without doubt. You will have to go a very long way to hear a better album this year. Excellent stuff.

This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.

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