Bob Corritore & Friends – You Shocked Me | Album Review

Bob Corritore & Friends – You Shocked Me

VizzTone Label Group/SWMAF Records VT-SWMAF-21

16 songs – 66 minutes

Fans of old-school blues have had more reasons than heaping love on Bob Corritore than for his skill as a harp player. The Rhythm Room in Phoenix, Ariz., he’s sharing its stage with top talent for close to 30 years while recording the performances and trips to the studio with them, too. And he’s been serving up a treat for the ears in the past four years, releasing compilations of those efforts.

Featuring vocals from John Primer, Alabama Mike, Diunna Greenleaf, Johnny Rawls, Jimi “Primetime” Smith, Sugaray Rayford, Oscar Wilson, Bob Stroger, Francine Reed, Willie Buck and Bill “Howl-n-Madd” Perry, this disc – the fifth in the series – might very well be the best yet.

The Chicago native dipped deep into his archives for the four previous efforts – Don’t Let the Devil Ride, Do the Hip-Shake Baby!, Spider in My Stew and Down Home Blues Revue. But this one is decidedly different. All of the material was captured between 2018 and 2022 at Tempest Studios in neighboring Tempe with Corritore weaving the folks from diverse disciplines together through his masterful work on the reeds and an in-your-face attitude in the control room.

The list of backing musicians is just as impressive as the star-studded roster of vocalists. The roster includes Bob Margolin, Kid Ramos, Johnny Main, L.A. Jones, Patrick Skog and Johnny Rapp (guitars), Doug James (sax), Fred Kaplan, Ben Levin, Anthony Geraci and Shea Marshall (keys) with Tony Tomlinson, Yahni Riley, Troy Sandow, Adrianna Marie, Mike Hightower, Blake Watson and Shy Perry on bass and Wes Starr, Allen West, Marty Dotson, Brian Fahey and Andrew Guterman on drums and Celia King and Eboni McDonald providing backing vocals.

Primer opens the action with a sprightly, loping cover of his “Hiding Place.” His voice has never sounded better, and his extended six-string solo rocks. Bay Area fixture Alabama Mike contributes four tunes to this set, beginning with a take on Eddie Burns’ “Squeeze Me Baby,” which serves up plenty of old-school appeal thanks to his strong tenor and Corritore’s lilting accompaniment before yielding to Greenleaf for a cover of “You Shocked Me,” a 1958 hit for R&B/blues shouter Tiny Topsy, on which Margolin and Jones deliver a catchy mid-tune solo.

Rawls takes command for a smooth take on his gospel-fueled complaint, “The World’s in a Bad Situation,” before giving way to Alabama Mike for an extended take on Sammy Lewis’ 1977 burner, “Somebody Stole My Love from Me.” The beat quickens but the theme remains dark for Primetime’s “Blinded” Primetime and Sugaray’s Latin-flavored “Josephine,” both of which deal with problem ladies and the latter features high-end runs from Corritore with vocal accents from Rayford to match.

The mood quiets as Oscar delivers the sweetest take on Jimmy Reed’s “Blue Blue Water” you’ll ever hear then gives way to nonagenarian Stroger who shines on the self-penned “Train Fare.” Corritore comes to the fore on harp and Ramos on six-string as Reed belts out his original, “Don’t Need Your Permission,” then gives way to Buck, who dips into his own catalog for the deep blue ballad, “That Ain’t Enough,” and Primetime powers through “Soul Food,” a pleaser first served up by Rex Garvin & the Mighty Cravers in 1963, aided by James.

Perry’s Delta-flavored “Back to the Crossroads” follows before two Alabama Mike numbers – Paul Perryman’s Work to Be Done” and Otis Spann’s “Blues for Hippies” – bookend Diunna’s original, “Happy Day Friends,” to close.

Strongly recommended. Don’t be surprised when this one gets strong consideration when the next awards season comes around!

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