Elly Wininger – The Blues Never End
Earwig Music – 2021
13 tracks; 50.47 minutes
Elly Wininger started out in New York’s Greenwich Village folk and blues scene in the 70’s, inspired by traditional artists like Lead Belly, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mississippi John Hurt. She started on stage alongside the likes of Maria Muldaur and David Bromberg and has released four previous CDs. Her latest on Earwig comprises four original compositions and nine covers. Elly accompanies herself on acoustic and slide guitars and is assisted (in varying combinations) by Lou Pappas on acoustic bass, Paul Duffy on piano, Eric Parker on drums and percussion, Josh Roy Brown on lap steel, Rob Stein on pedal steel, Jimmy Eppard on bass, Ed Morris on accordion, Mike Merenda on banjo and Sam Friedman on harmonica; David Winograd (tuba), Barry Bryson (trumpet), Dale DeMarco (clarinet) and Ken Foy (trombone) appear on one track.
Elly sings in a clear, pleasant voice and picks her guitar beautifully, as can immediately be heard on the traditional “Let That Liar Alone”, her version with just guitar, bass and handclaps inspired by Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s, but aimed at recent political times in the States. Geeshie Wiley’s “Skinny Legs Blues” is guitar and piano was written in 1930, Elly deliberately omitting the verse in which she slits the guy’s throat! A fine solo take on Skip James’ “Special Rider Blues” sits amongst a run of four originals: the first is a slow blues with lap steel and full rhythm section, Elly in search of the “Right Kind Of Trouble”; we then head South to discover “Alabama Blues”, a sorry tale of unplanned pregnancy hitting up against abortion rules, a very topical subject at present, Elly sounding suitably angry about the situation; “The Blues Never Ends” deliberately references a host of blues song titles during a relaxed five minutes; in contrast “(I Wanna Be Like) Rosie” is an uptempo romp that pays tribute to accordion player Rosie Lydet.
Tony Joe White’s oft-covered “As The Crow Flies” is stripped back to its rural roots in a sedate version with slide, banjo and percussion. The remaining tracks are all songs from the greats of traditional blues/country blues. Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Black Snake Moan” is given a Dixieland feel by the addition of the four wind instruments. Elly plays the next three solo: Blind Willie Johnson’s “God Moves On The Water” (a song that references the sinking of the Titanic in 1912) is effectively played on the slide guitar; Elly states that she thinks that Lonnie Johnson’s “Range In My Kitchen” should be sung by a woman, so she does so! A slowed-down version of Lead Belly’s “Leavin’ Blues” finds her back on slide before a band performance of another Lead Belly song, “Old Riley”, closes the album with a jaunty country blues.
Fans of traditional acoustic blues will find a lot to enjoy on this album.