"Too Many Highways" is the latest recording by Howlin' Wolf bandleader Eddie Shaw and his version of the Wolf Gang. Shaw has been at the heart of the Chicago music scene since he first joined Muddy Water's band back in 1957. With a musical resume that includes work with such blues luminaries as Freddie King, Magic Sam, Earl Hooker and Otis Rush, Shaw's greatest claim to fame has been the seventeen years he spent with the immortal Howlin' Wolf. When Wolf died in 1976, Shaw kept the band together as a tribute to the departed leader.
Of the twelve songs on "Too Many Highways," seven are written by Eddie Shaw, including "Ode To Howlin' Wolf," written in memory of the bluesmaster. The CD also includes excellent covers of "Built For Comfort" and "Ain't Superstitious," two songs that were made famous as original Howlin' Wolf recordings. Covers of Brook Benton's classic, "Rainy Night In Georgia," James Peterson's "Playing The Game" and Joe Hunter's "Since I Met You Baby," round out the recording.
Shaw's regular traveling band of Vaan Shaw on guitar (Eddie's son), Shorty Gilbert on bass and Tim Taylor on drums is fortified with additional guitar by Chicago blues stalwart Johnny B. Moore and a guest appearance by Michael Pevey, who trades saxophone solos with Shaw on his original, "Sack Full Of Blues."
While the covers on the CD are all well done, particularly the two Howlin' Wolf tunes, the best reason to buy the CD is the excellent group of Eddie Shaw original numbers. "Goin' Back To Greenville" provides some hot saxophone by Eddie Shaw and sharp guitar fills by Vaan Shaw. The title of "Ode To Howlin' Wolf" clearly describes the intent of this well done tune which features a Howlin' Wolf signature riff and praise for the man who contributed so much to the blues and to Shaw's career. Midway through the CD, Shaw takes the opportunity to demonstrate his skills on the harmonica. His best harp work on the CD can be heard on the title cut, "Too Many Highways," which also features some excellent guitar by both Vaan Shaw and Johnny B. Moore. "Too Many Highways" ends as strong as it starts with two Eddie Shaw compositions, "I'm Tired" and "What Came First." "I'm Tired" has a nice shuffle beat with fantastic guitar and saxophone. "What Came First" has a mid-tempo boogie beat and sounds like a tune that might have been performed by Howlin' Wolf himself.
As an added bonus for the diehard blues fan, the CD liner notes feature an interview with Eddie Shaw by Brett Bonner. The interview offers some interesting reading to go along with the fine music provided by Eddie Shaw and The Wolf Gang. If you are interested in your own copy of "Too Many Highways," check out the Wolf Records website at www.wolfrec.com or www.onstage.at/wolfrec.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.