John Primer & Bob Corritore – The Gypsy Woman Told Me
VizzTone Label Group VT-SWMAF-14
12 songs – 49 minutes
John Primer and Bob Corritore make one helluva team when it comes to old-school Chicago blues. This is the fourth time they’ve worked together on an album in the past decade with sensational results, and this one’s probably their best yet.
The pair had known each other casually since the late ‘70s, when Primer – originally from Camden, Miss. — had assumed the guitar chair behind Junior Wells in the house band at the legendary Theresa’s Lounge, and Corritore – a recent high school graduate from suburban Evanston — was just starting to make a name for himself as a harp player in rough-and-tumble clubs of the city’s West and South Sides.
John has one of the best blues pedigrees of any musician today, having served apprenticeships in Willie Dixon’s Chicago Blues Allstars, the Muddy Waters Band and Magic Slim’s Teardrops before exiting the shadows and establishing himself as the world-class bandleader he is today. A Grammy nominee who was hailed by the Blues Music Association as its traditional artist of the year in 2016, he most recently garnered artist-of-the-year and soul-blues album of the year trophies in last year’s Blues Blast Music Awards.
Bob, meanwhile, paid his dues in support of Willie Buck, Tail Dragger and Eddie Taylor before relocating to Phoenix, Ariz., in the early ‘80s, where he teamed with Louisiana Red, Janiva Magness, Chico Chism and others before opening The Rhythm Room, a club that’s been one of the brightest stops on the blues highway for the past 25 years. A Keeping the Blues Alive honoree, his trophy case includes a Living Blues magazine harp player of the year honor and a BMA prize for best traditional album, too.
The duo crossed paths frequently across the decades but hadn’t played together prior to 2013, when spent five weeks crisscrossing Europe as part of an American blues festival tour. The magic they experienced playing off one another was instantaneous and quickly led them to the studio for what became the album Knockin’ Around These Blues later that year.
Another well-received album, Ain’t Nothing You Can Do, followed and Primer was in the lineup last year for Do the Hip-Shake Baby, which was issued under the billing Bob Corritore and Friends. And through it all, they played with hand-in-glove precision, updating the traditional sound of Chicago and slightly refashioning it for 21st Century ears.
This disc mixes smoking electric and laid back acoustic arrangements. Captured at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in California and Clarke Rigsby’s Tempest Recording in Tempe, Ariz., the lineup includes a who’s who of talent: Jimi “Primetime” Smith and Billy Flynn on guitars, Bob Welsh, Ben Levin and Andersen on keyboards, Kedar Roy, Mike Hightower and Troy Sandow on bass and June Core and Brian Fahey on percussion.
The grooves come hot and heavy from the opening bars of Chuck Willis’ “Keep a-Driving” with John’s baritone delightfully powering through the lyrics – he’s on the mike throughout – and delivering tasty single-note guitar runs while Bob’s harp lilts in the background. Muddy would be beaming with the cover of “The Gypsy Woman Told Me,” a 1948 on Aristocrat, the predecessor to Chess Records. Sax Kari’s funky “Knockin’ at Your Door” comes across with a steady Latin beat before Corritore’s harp comes to the fore for a bare-bones reprise of Lil’ Son Jackson’s “Gambling Blues,” one of his earliest releases on Gold Star in 1949.
The Primer original “Little Bitty Woman” is a medium-fast shuffle with a percussive railroad beat that dovetails perfectly with what’s come before. It’s delivered from the position of a man yearning for his lady with “meat shakin’ on her bones” to come back home. Bob’s on chromatic for the Little Milton classic “Walking the Back Streets and Crying” before both men shine on solos during J.J. Cale’s familiar “I Got the Same Old Blues.”
The duo put their own spin on Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “My Imagination,” Jimmy Reed’s “Let’s Get Together” and Jimmy Rogers’ “Left Me With a Broken Heart” before another great stripped-down, acoustic Primer original, “Walked So Long,” in which he’s treading with sore, soaked feet but determined to reach his baby’s door. The album closes with Little Junior Parker’s “Ain’t Gonna Be No Cuttin’ Loose,” which was also frequently in the set list of James Cotton, too.
Available through most major retailers, this one’s a pleasant labor of love from two good friends and masters of traditional blues, and the positive feelings flow in every groove throughout. Strongly recommended.