Severn Records CD 0070
16 songs – 53 minutes
Veteran Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman/harmonica player Kim Wilson fires on all cylinders as he calls upon an all-star lineup of Chicago and West Coast musicians to deliver this tasty album, which is sure to be essential listening for anyone with a love for old-school blues.
A founding — and last remaining — member of the Thunderbirds, who’ve been thrilling audiences around the globe for three decades, delivering tunes culled from various musical stylings, Wilson goes straight to the root of his influences here. The Goleta, Calif., native mines several familiar blues standards and intersperses them seamlessly with his own originals to produce an album that sounds like it could have been captured in the Windy City in the ’60s or ’70s.
Produced by Wilson and recorded at Nathan James’ Sacred Cat Studios in Oceanside, Calif., and Big Jon Atkinson’s Big Tone Recording Studios in Hayward, Blues And Boogie is bittersweet in some ways because it contains some of the last recordings of two of the most beloved modern-era bluesman. Keyboard player Barrelhouse Chuck Goering, a longtime member of Kim’s touring band and a national treasure who was the last direct link to the first generation of Chicago keyboard masters, and Richard “Big Foot” Innes, the legendary West Coast drummer who worked with everyone from Phillip Walker and Smokey Wilson to Kid Ramos, Hollywood Fats and The Mannish Boys, both succumbed to cancer while the album was in production.
That said, this release is a delight. As anyone who’s been listening to Thunderbirds hits like “Tuff Enuff” knows, Wilson’s both an outstanding, unhurried vocalist and harmonica player of the first order. Both James and Atkinson provide their amble guitar talents to the mix, joined by Billy Flynn, Bob Welsh and Danny Michel. Filling out the rhythm section are Troy Sandow, Larry Taylor and Kedar Roy on bass and Marty Dodson and Malachi Johnson on drums. Jonny Viau contributes horns on three cuts.
Wilson’s original instrumental “Bonus Boogie” opens and sets the tone, echoing the golden era of Chicago blues as he rips and runs on harp, accompanied by Atkinson and Welsh on guitars. A swinging version of Elmore James’ “No Love In My Heart” and a straight-forward take on Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Ninety-Nine,” follow before covers of Big Maceo Merriweather’s “Worried Life Blues” gives Barrelhouse Chuck space to shine.
The hits keep coming for re-dos of Jimmy Reed’s “You Upset My Mind,” Little Walter’s “Teenage Beat” and John Lee Hooker’s “Same Old Blues” before another Wilson original, “Searched All Over.” Featuring Flynn on six-string, it’s a new take on hunting for a woman who always goes missing whenever the singer is on the prowl for her.
A quartet of standards — Sonny Boy Williamson I’s “From The Bottom,” Magic Sam’s “Look Whatcha Done,” Little Walter’s “Blue And Lonesome” and Elmore’s “Sho Nuff I Do” — all are covered masterfully before two more originals. A medium-fast, keyboard driven shuffle, “Learn To Treat Me Right” finds Kim ready to fall on his knees to beg his lady to understand that he’s tired of their constant fights while “Edgier” is an instrumental that gives Wilson time shine on diatonic. Two more standards — Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Mean Old Frisco” and Jimmy Rogers’ “You’re The One” — bring the set to a close.
If you’re searching for a gift for a dyed-in-the-wool, old-school blues lover, you won’t go wrong with this one. Available through all major retailers, and highly recommended. And this reviewer, for one, hopes Blues And Boogie, Vol. 2 hits his mailbox soon!