Bob Margolin – This Guitar and Tonight
VizzTone Label Group VT-SRR004
9 songs – 42 minutes
North Carolina-based Bob Margolin has been a vital member of the blues community since Muddy Waters hired him as his second guitarist in the early ‘70s, but this CD is a first for him in a career that’s spanned 50 years and included work with a who’s who of music royalty.
It’s the first all-acoustic, solo effort for the native Bostonian, a project that came about effortlessly — inspired by his own 1935 parlor guitar, the memory that Muddy preferred to play acoustic and the suggestion from publicist Amy Brat, one of his partners in the VizzTone Label Group, that it would provide a “fresh adventure” for him.
For Margolin, now age 70, that’s something pretty hard to come by when you consider that he’s a multiple Blues Music/W.C. Handy Award winner as a guitarist, a Keeping the Blues Alive honoree as a music journalist and someone who’s contributed to several Grammy-winning recordings, including Muddy Waters’ Woodstock Album, the master’s final effort for Chess Records.
He’s been performing recently in The Band’s Last Waltz Tour after appearing alongside Muddy in the original concert, and he’s been touring recently in a two-man show with Jimmy Vivino, fingerpicking and trading licks with the longtime Conan O’Brien bandleader and swapping blues stories between the songs.
Vivino appears here for one cut, as does harmonica wizard Bob Corritore. But, like the concept itself, this is a throwback effort with Bob alone with his six-string and delivering a performance with the feel of a home concert — warm, personal and unadorned with gimmickry — as he runs through a set of nine intimate originals that, as he states in the packaging, deliver “blues, love, blessings, challenges, stories and fun. No sugar added.”
The title cut with Vivino, “This Guitar and Tonight,” quickly sets the stage for what’s to come. It’s a slow-and-steady suggestion not to try to guess the future or reflect on love lost in the past. Just sit back and enjoy the music that’s filling your ears. Up next, the minor-key “Evil Walks in Our World” serves up a not-so-subtle view of current world events — fake news, fake politicians and fake friends among them – without pointing fingers and while praying for change.
The Delta-flavored ballad, “Over Time,” recounts a daydream that fuses past, present and future. It includes a conversation Margolin holds with a younger version of himself. The youngster doesn’t recognize himself in advanced age, but Bob fills him in on the pain and pleasure that awaits as the years go passing by.
The dazzling “Dancers Boogie” offers up a finger-picking fiesta as it urges listeners to get on the floor and dance before Corritore joins the action on “Blues Lover,” which describes a lady who’s partying at The Rhythm Room, the harmonica master’s long-running nightclub in Phoenix, Ariz., as it breathes new life into the sounds of an old-school guitar-and-harp duo.
The sweet instrumental “Good Driving Song” is a practical lesson in technique for anyone who simply thinks he can play guitar, while the straight-forward ballad “I Can’t Take Those Blues Away” is a talking blues that describes a conversation with a female police officer who’s just experienced the worst possible of days. The tender love ballad “Together” – the description of the closeness enjoyed in a long-term relationship — follows before the most interesting song in the set, the eight-minute, highly political “Predator,” brings the album to a close.
Bob lays down accompanying guitar parts that duel for your attention in separate channels as he describes John F. Kennedy’s return home to Boston in 1961 after his inauguration – a pleasant memory in and of itself, but disturbing because Margolin’s father was worried – fearful that the President was an easy target for assassination.
The tune goes on to describe Bob riding with Muddy and the band past the White House during the Nixon administration and then playing there for Jimmy Carter a few years later before bringing things forward to current time and stating that neither he, nor Waters or Carter could have imaged what the current administration is doing today. As Margolin says succinctly: “The news is never good.”
Interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking, too, This Guitar and Tonight is available through most major retailers and is strongly recommended listen.