Big Golden Wheeler – Turn My Life Around | Album Review

Big Golden Wheeler – Turn My Life Around

11songs – 61minutes

This is the third solo release by Chicago blues harmonica and vocalist Big Golden Wheeler. It was produced by and features fellow Chicago blues legend Jimmy Johnson on all backing instruments. Story goes they were big mates and Big Wheeler wanted something tangible to sell at gigs from the stage , originally it was made into a cassette. (Remember those happy memories?)  Anyway Wolf Records got these old recordings from him and hence released them. His previous releases were on the  Delmark record label called Bone Orchard in 1993 and Jump In in 1997.

Eight of the songs were written by Golden Wheeler himself. There are also two tracks from a session in 1989 with the Wolf All Star Blues Band featuring Luther Adams, John Primer, Willie Kent and Timothy Taylor. This is Chicago blues at its finest and dirtiest at times. This has all the hallmarks of someone who has been there done that and what a legacy.

Starting with the cover of Jimmy Reed’s “The Sun Is Shining” he makes his harmonica sound like a chirping bird. His voice has that well lived in drawl and fine keyboard playing on this. A real discovery for yours truly as really only know Jimmy as a brilliant blues guitarist.  “Dirty Blues” the second track is a real favourite, mixing the talents of both artists forming a strong sound with great melodies. Wheeler pays homage to his idol Little Walter on his take of “I Got To Go” giving a jump jive effect with resonating harmonica tones. “Good Lover” keeps a slow groove going, introducing John Primer on lead guitar . There is a real organic sound to the production and recording, nothing fancy, just really pure and perfect. Undoubted standout track for guitar lovers is the instrumental “Blue Guitar” written by Earl Hooker and given the full Jimmy Johnson treatment, just mesmerising. The pace rolls on with the lazy blues of “Hey Short Woman”. The second session song, a cover of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Crazy Bout You Baby” has great guitar licks again with light drumming by Timothy Taylor.

“Hard Luck Blues” is a  standard slow blues take on the old Roy Brown number which rolls along smoothly. His own “Honey Connie” is uptempo about a girl he used to know and sounds full of character. Title track “Turn My Life Around” mixes soulful lyrics to a funky beat full of redemption and self reflection. The final track “V.J. It’s O.K” has a more honky tonk blues piano feel to leave the listener smiling.

Altogether this release is a masterclass in Chicago Blues playing by two musicians worthy of being called legends. It just sounds so good with lazy beats , consummate guitar playing and grinding harmonica riffs, a sure fire winner.

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