Rip Cat Records RIC 1116
16 songs – XX minutes
When Richard Duran, aka Lynwood Slim, died last September at age 60 after a valiant four-year fight against hepatitis C, liver failure and then a stroke, blues insiders everywhere were struck first with disbelief and then grief. The beloved harmonica player and flautist literally had spread his talent around the world, as this loving collection of recordings — made with musical friends in Italy, the Netherlands, France, Brazil and California and planned for release before his death — clearly shows.
A Los Angeles native who never wanted to be anything other than a blues harp player or pool hustler, Slim picked up the harp at age 15, influenced by Big Walter Horton, Little Walter Jacobs and Jimmy Reed, after studying trumpet. He fronted a band in the City of Angels for six years before relocating to Minneapolis in 1977 in search of better gigs. Soon after, he replaced Kim Wilson in the band Aces Straights & Shuffles after Wilson moved to Texas to form the Fabulous Thunderbirds. By the mid-‘80s, his group dominated the local scene, winning Best Blues Band honors in 1986.
A restless soul, Slim immigrated briefly to Amsterdam and Chicago in 1988 before moving back home to L.A., where he began working with guitar master Junior Watson as well as bass player Larry Taylor, keyboardist Fred Kaplan and drummer Richard Innes, former members of the Hollywood Fats Band. He toured the world and recorded extensively until his health began to fail. He delivered the blues with a warm, rich feel and tone no matter what the song. And his vocals swung from the jump.
On this CD, he’s featured playing with an international lineup of guitarists – Americans Johnny “Cat” Soubrand and Kid Ramos, Italian Alberto Colombo, Frenchmen Nico Duportal and Farid Bouzit and Brazilian Igor Prado – as well as the Italian band The Red Wagons, the Dutch band BluesCrowns and the Scandinavian band Trick Bag, which includes British harmonica great West Weston. Former Roomful Of Blues vocalist/harp player Mark DuFresne, now based in Washington state, also adds his own work to the disc with a tribute song that concludes the set.
The action begins with a smooth, traditional rendition of the Jimmy Reed classic, “Found Love,” featuring Soubrand on six-string before Colombo takes over for an uptempo version of another standard, Big Joe Williams’ “Baby Please Don’t Go,” recorded in Gallarate, Italy. The action shifts to Maastricht, Netherlands, where the BluesCrowns assist on “I Chose To Sing The Blues,” a tune written by Ray Charles and featuring Slim on flute.
The Red Wagons join Duran in the studio in Rome for “All Of My Life,” a Roy Gaines original featuring a solid horn line, before the BluesCrowns return for the Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson-penned slow blues rendition of “Person To Person.” Next up, Slim and The Red Wagons shift gears with B.B. King’s percolating “Jump With Me Baby.” The action moves to Sauveterre, France, as Duportal joins him for a version of Jimmy Liggins’ jazzy “Don’t Put Me Down” before Colombo sits in on two of his original tunes, straight-ahead shuffles “Call You No More” and “Wake Up.”
“Old Honkie Tonk Piano Roll Blues” features Slim and Ramos in an L.A. studio, where Slim picks up the flute again for a reprise of a song written by one of his personal favorites, jazz great Herbie Mann, and delivered flawlessly atop an interesting brush pattern on drums. “Close To You,” a searing Colombo-written blues, follows before two Bouzit originals, the swinging “Almost Free” and jazzy “Juste Toi Et Moi (Just You And Me),” laid down in North Hollywood.
Next up, Slim unites with Brazilian lefthanded, upside-down playing jump master Prado in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for a swinging version of Paul Gayten’s “You Better Believe It” before Trick Bag joins the action for a modern take on Jimmy Rogers’ classic, “That’s Alright.” DuFresne’s closer, “Lynwood Slim,” describes the artist perfectly: “He always looked sharp/He could sure blow the harp/When the law come around/He would stand his ground/He faces danger just like Jungle Jim/Lynwood Slim.”
Hard To Kill is a fine tribute to an artist who left us far too soon. The album is available from Amazon and iTunes or directly from the label website. Like far too many musicians, Richard Duran lived his life without benefit of health insurance. His survivors are buried under an avalanche of medical bills. A benefit featuring many of the folks who played with him is scheduled in Los Angeles for September. And the family is accepting donations through his website (address above).
EDITORS NOTE: This album has been nominated for Traditional Blues Album in the 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards.