It is 20 years since "The Chief" was released, which was the stepping stone to the major league for Eddy Clearwater. His latest outing, "Chicago Daily Blues," shows that Clearwater has been working hard to maintain his reputation. The album offers a nice contrast with eight new studio recordings, and six tracks from a live show at Kingston Mines in 1977.
"2 x 9" opens the studio section of the album, and gets things off to a flying start, showing off the influence of Chuck Berry. Clearwater is even wont to include a spot of duckwalking during live performances. He is much more than a Berry imitator, however, as the rest of the album aptly demonstrates. His overall style is exemplified by self-explanatory "A Little Bit of Blues, A Little Bit of Rock & Roll." Throughout the proceedings, Clearwater is backed by changing line-up of musicians, including the excellent Jimmy Johnson on guitar. Special praise too for Allen Batts who does a great job on keyboards, Dimestore Fred, whose harp gives the studio version of "Chicago Daily Blues" an extra dimension, and Abb Locke for some appropriately bluesy sax.
The autobiographical "Came Up The Hard Way" is the pick of the bunch. A slow grinder, it provides plenty of room for Clearwater to really put his guitar through its paces, serving up some stinging solos, and pouring heart and soul into the vocals. Even though the track clocks up some eight and a half minutes, it is not a second too long. It is followed by a diversion into country territory with "Nashville Road" which provides the bridge to the live set.
On the live section the only original tune is an extended version of the album's title track. All of the others are instantly recognizable. The guitar sounds a bit subdued, and "subdued" is not a word normally associated with Eddy Clearwater, so it must be in the mix. The dominant feature of the live tracks is the party atmosphere that pervades Clearwater's live shows. The album closes with Clearwater paying homage to Chuck Berry on a rousing version of "Johnny B. Goode."
"Chicago Daily Blues" confirms Eddy Clearwater's status as a quality singer and guitarist. It is Chicago blues, Eddy Clearwater style, which includes a bit of Berry style rock'n'roll, and a touch of country. Although the live tracks are good, they do not really do full justice to the Clearwater live act. The studio tracks, in comparison, show that Clearwater has continued to mature as a musician, and particularly as a songwriter. If you get the chance, you should catch Eddy Clearwater live. In the meantime, "Chicago Daily Blues" will fill the gap nicely.
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