"Rockin' and Shoutin' the Blues" announces Jimmy T-99 Nelson's return to recording in a big way. T-99 is a singer from the old school of big band blues singers and shouters like Joe Turner--T-99's inspiration and mentor--Percy Mayfield and Jimmy Witherspoon. Sadly, there's not too many of them left now, which makes albums like "Rockin' and Shoutin' the Blues" all the more precious.
The opening "House of the Blues"--the first of four original tunes--make you realize just what you have been missing. As a singer T-99 simply oozes class, and the band (all 8 of them) fall right in behind him right from the word go. Just to prove it was no fluke, it is immediately followed by another original ("Hurt Three Ways") where legendary Texas guitarist Clarence Hollimon (who recorded with Junior Parker and Bobby Bland) gets more of a chance to show that he can still cut it too.
The original tunes at least match, and often better, the covers, with "New Shack Lover" in particular being outstanding. It has an infectious groove, with T-99 kicking out the vocals over the big fat horn sound of Rich Lataille, Doug James (both of Roomful of Blues), Gordon Beadle, and co-producer Carl Querfurth. It is one of those tunes that has you instantly reaching for the replay button, and jumps straight into my three favorite tracks of the year.
T-99 sings blues with a feeling, whether it be upbeat (like "House of the Blues"), or something more melancholic (such as "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying"). There are not many singers who could carry off "When You're Smiling" these days, but T-99 does it with the style of a Sinatra at his peak. The thing that continually shines through is T-99's positive outlook, and his infectious love of singing. This is particularly apparent on the closing rendition of Eddie Vinson's "Sweet Mr. Cleanhead," which he brings up to date and reinvigorates with the addition of appropriate lyrics.
"Rockin' and Shoutin' the Blues" is an excellent album, and is ample proof that T-99 is still a force to be reckoned with, even though it is over 50 years since he made his recording debut. T-99 has a wonderfully warm voice, which makes "Rockin' and Shoutin' the Blues" the perfect antidote to winter: it is guaranteed to leave you with a warm glow all over. Now what we need is for the recent session cut with Port Butler (who recorded Floyd Dixon's comeback in 1996) to be released. In the meantime "Rockin' and Shoutin' the Blues" is yet another album to be added to the list of essential purchases.
Jimmy T-99 Nelson: www.JimmyT99Nelson.com
This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.