Junior Wells – South Side Blues Jam|Album Review

juniorwellscdJunior Wells –¬†Southside Blues Jam

Delmark Records


15 songs time-73:23

This reissue of Junior Wells’ second release is exactly what the title says…A blues jam. Much of what is here has a sense of incompleteness or of lyrics made up on the spot. Some songs sound like the band testing out the material and were never intended to see the light of day. The iconic blues band gathered for this session gives a good representation of a classic blues band, although there aren’t a lot of “aha” moments. Don’t expect too many guitar fireworks. Buddy Guy’s playing is mostly low in the mix and crude. Although he does ignite briefly latter in the album. Louis Myers’ guitar playing fares a lot better. His technique is sturdy and supportive like a real blues craftsman. Legendary blues piano man Otis Spann makes his last appearance before his death in grand style. First call blues drummer Fred Below anchors the preceding’s along with Earnest Johnson on bass. What was intended and achieved is a representation that is as close to a live performance in a club as possible.

Junior handles Rice Miller’s “Stop Breaking Down” with the authority it deserves. Junior’s harp skills are just proficient enough, much like Howlin’ Wolf. Otis’ piano playing is prominent here. His playing is the blueprint for all those that followed him. The first inkling of spontaneous lyrics appears on the original “I Could Have Had Religion”. Junior rambles from references of dead blues legends to religion to love. It sounds like a demo as Junior exclaims “I just wanted to get the idea man, we can do it now”.

“I Just Want To Make Love To You” is retitled “Just Make Love To Me” here. It’s a strong reading of the classic featuring both guitarists and it keeps pretty close to the original words. Buddy’s playing on “Lend Me Your Love” is crude while Otis Spann just shines. Again “off the cuff” lyrics. Muddy Waters’ classic “Long Distance Call” gets a powerful but incomplete reading and some alternate lyrics.

A sprightly delivery is given to another Rice Miller nugget on “In My Younger Days”, as Junior blows his harp as if his life depended on it. Buddy shares vocal chores on “Trouble Don’t Last”, a slow blues. Junior improvises a spoken word section. Louis Myers keeps a strong guitar groove going on “It’s Too Late Brother”, the first of seven bonus tracks. Buddy comes to life with a short blazing guitar solo on “Love My Baby”. Junior returns with an elongated version of “I Could Have Had Religion”. “Got To Play The Blues” drifts into Junior impersonating various blues luminaries. His attempt at Howlin’ Wolf’s gruff voice is comical. Junior switches from vocalizing to making odd sounds in one interlude.

Although not a primo Junior Wells performance, this is an enjoyable glimpse into blues improvisation and what these blues giants sounded like on the bandstand. The sound is pristine. The packaging is well done with a new note from by producer Bob Koester and a 16-page booklet with many never before seen photos.

The loose element of the music is refreshing. Warts and all this is an interesting listen.

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