Brenda Taylor – Buggy Ride
Wolf Records – 2021
12 tracks: 48.14 minutes
Brenda Taylor is the eldest daughter of the late Vera and Eddie Taylor; Vera was a singer and Eddie, of course, was Jimmy Reed’s guitar player for many years. Brenda has performed in Chicago and at the Chicago Blues Festival, but this is her first album under her own name and was recorded and mixed by Blaise Barton on home turf in Chicago, September 2018. Sadly, since the sessions for this album, Brenda’s brother Eddie Taylor Jr has also passed, these probably being amongst his final recordings. The band is classic Chicago with Eddie Jr and Illinois Slim on guitar, Freddie Dixon (son of Willie) on bass, Harmonica Hinds and Illinois Slim sharing harp duties and another Taylor brother, Tim, on drums. The material is what you might hear at a club like Blue Chicago, a mix of familiar blues classics and a few originals.
Whether the world needs another version of “Sweet Home Chicago” is doubtful, but this is a good one, with solo spots for everyone and drummer Tim really driving the band along. “I Found Out” is one of mother Vera’s songs, a classic tale of infidelity, with the twist that the wronged woman is planning to get a red dress and stand on the corner like her rival “and have more fun than I’ve ever had” – that’ll teach him! Brenda adapts the JB Lenoir song to “Mama Talk To Your Son” and it’s a lively version that bounds along well.
Brenda’s first original is “Better Look Out For Me”, an uptempo tune with a stop/start rhythm. Brenda is mad and determined to stop her guy running around, so is on her way to buy a 45, sounds like a dangerous lady. The two guitarists exchange solos over bubbling bass and subtle harp accompaniment, the whole making this the standout track on the album, for this reviewer. “I’m Good” is perhaps the best known song of another departed Chicagoan, Bonnie Lee and Brenda does a good job on her cover.
Another familiar song marks the half-way point of the album, Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me”, again a solid version with Brenda’s vocals especially good on this one though the harp work is a little underpowered compared with Rice Miller’s style. Brenda’s “I’m Movin’ On” starts with an interesting line about there being “a million brands of whiskey, a million brands of beer” but then does not really develop, as the title is repeated many times over. Otis Rush’s “All Your Love” has some lovely harp and guitar work, but sounds as if it has been cut off, with an abrupt end after just 2.44.
Jimmy Reed’s “Baby, What Do You Want Me To Do” is up next and Jimmy’s distinctive, high-end harp work is emulated by Harmonica Hinds as the band romps through the familiar tune in great style. Having done one of her Mum’s songs it seems only right that Brenda should cover her Dad’s “I Feel So Bad” before closing the album with two more originals. “Smooth Ridin’ Buggy” is a frantic boogie which gives the album its title. It’s one of those great “double entendre” songs as Brenda describes herself as “a smooth ridin’ buggy, ready to go all the time”! “You Don’t Treat Me Right” is another piece of typical uptempo Chicago blues, played to a tune not dissimilar to the earlier “Help Me” and providing another opportunity to appreciate the two guitarists’ style – no effects, no shredding, no showboating.
This is a decent album of standard Chicago fare. The only serious criticism is Brenda’s habit of doubling up her vocal lines. At times it sounds as if there are two vocalists but no other singers are credited, so one must assume that all the vocals are by Brenda, double-tracked. It’s an unusual device and one that recurs rather too often as the album proceeds, distracting the listener’s attention from the many aspects of the disc that are well done.