14 Tracks/59:57 Running Time
Billy Boy Arnold is a 2014 Blues Music Award nominee and one of the few remaining original Chicago Blues musicians actually born in Chicago. He took harmonica lessons from Sonny Boy Williamson 1 and played the compelling harmonica riff in Bo Diddley’s classic, “I’m A Man”.
This is Billy’s second album with guitar wizard Duke Robillard at the production helm. The result is a tight smorgasboard of three original compositions by Arnold as well as covers of songs written by Sir Mack Rice, Eddie Miller, Ted Taylor, Joe Tex, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Oscar Brown, Jr. and others.
The songs presented herein are all crisp, precise examples of why Billy Boy Arnold is still very much in the game. The band drives, swings and rocks effortlessly.
The Joe Tex penned, “Mother’s Prayer” is laden with juicy hooks from the gate –
“My son is 9 Lord, he’s on dope,
my teenage daughter refuses to use water and soap
I tell my children something, they talk back,
Lord, what makes my children act like that…”
One can’t resist the lyric nor Billy Boy’s presentation. Arnold is, of course augmented by the core of the Duke Robillard Band featuring Duke Robillard on guitars and background vocals, Bruce Bears on piano and Hammond organ, Brad Hallen on acoustic and electric bass and Mark Teixiera on drums and background vocals. Robillard’s go to horns, Rich Lataille on alto and tenor sax, Mark Early on tenor and baritone sax and Doug Woolvertoon on trumpet round out the fat sound.
Add Billy Boy Arnold’s harmonica riffs to the formula and the result is a remarkable achievement as Robillard writes in the liner notes. His phrasing is uncanny in that he can flow with monosyllabic lyrics that seemingly threaten to bust the cadence at the seams but economically slide right in.
At first listen, one might crave more than the three songs written by Billy Boy Arnold on the disk. Upon closer inspection, it is obvious that Master Arnold has selected tunes that need to be passed down and examined by future generations of musicians. These are not tired reworkings. Soul school is in session.
Mr. Arnold may be turning eighty years of age on September 16 of this year but another portion of his gift is that he plays and sings like a man half his age. May his prosperous renderings continue Ad infinitum.