If I had to choose a current musician that exemplifies what Chicago Blues is all about the name that comes to mind first is Lurrie Bell. While others are also huge favorites of mine, no one elevates the playing of traditional Chicago Blues to the level that Lurrie does.
His guitar style is uniquely his own, chopping at the strings with a style and tone that separates him from contemporaries and predecessors. Having cast out the demons from his life, the music he has produced since is perhaps the best he’s done. CD after CD showcases the talents of the man born into the Blues and was baptized in a twelve bar baptismal font.
This new Delmark CD features Bell with his regular Chicago backers. Melvin Smith is on bass and Willie “The Touch” Hayes is on drums, the smoothest and coolest back line anywhere in the world, let alone Chicago. The talented Roosevelt Purfoy graces the various keyboards here and the outstanding Matthew Skoller is on harp. This band is superb and so is Lurrie. Featured are six originals and seven covers, all of them so well done.
They open with the original “Blues Is Trying to Keep Up With Me,” a beautiful shuffle featuring all the members of the band doing what they do best. Bell picks out a great solo, then later Purfoy does another good one and at the end Skoller closes with his own nice solo. “Drifting” has Bell growling out the lyrics. Skoller solos first and then Bell comes in for his. The band closes with a cool, long instrumental run. Slow blues is next; “I’m So Weary” features Bell testifying vocally and with some stinging guitar work. “One Eyed Woman” is Bell going acoustic with Skoller in support. The two of them do some down home front porch blues that made me thirsty for a big, old lemonade as I listened to the humorous lyrics. “This Worrisome Feeling” follows, a beautiful, original slow blues. Bell is gritty and cool vocally and strums out some interesting stuff on guitar. Purfoy on piano ads depth behind Bell. “Sit Down Baby” is another fine cover by these pros as is “Hold Me Tight.” Both are bouncy and danceable stuff. Great organ work on the latter, too.
“Sinner’s Prayer” has Bell deftly growling out his testimony for us. Purfoy helps set a somber mood in this one. Bell’s “I Can’t Shake This Feeling” is new straight up Chicago Blues with the boys taking turns up front. Nice dirty harp work here. “Born With the Blues” is grittier yet, and the boys do Carrie Bell’s song up sweetly. He picks up the tempo with his own “Do You Hear.” Skoller squeaks out some high stuff and everyone does a great job blasting through this one. “Hidden Charms” has Lurrie growling in his best manner about his baby’s hidden charms. He closes with “Faith and Music,” another song where he testifies to us. An original piece, it is him and his electric guitar telling us that his faith and music is all he’s got and got him through his life. Fantastic!
I love this album. It is Lurrie at his best. It’s a no brainer buy– go and get this now! It’s another amazing effort by Lurrie and his band, showcasing real Chicago Blues!