The Henry Gray/Bob Corritore Sessions – Vol. 1 Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest | Album Review

henrygraybobcorritorecdThe Henry Gray/Bob Corritore Sessions – Vol. 1 Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest

Delta Groove 2015

14 tracks; 52 minutes

Bob Corritore must be one of the hardest working guys in the blues!  As well as running a successful blues club he is a prolific broadcaster, musician and recording artist and a serial nominee at both the BMAs and the Blues Blast Awards where he is a regular performer.  As well as his own recordings Bob is also a frequent guest on other artists’ discs and has taken the opportunity over the years to record studio sessions with many blues artists, especially when they have been passing through his home base in Phoenix, Arizona to play at his club, The Rhythm Room.

The sessions on this CD were recorded across a span of twelve recording sessions over nineteen years, from 1996 to the present day and all feature Henry Gray on piano and vocals who is now into his nineties but still an active performer.  Only four tracks from these sessions have previously been issued, so this is a treasure trove for fans of classic blues.  The collection includes performances by many different artists, some of whom have since passed away, so the collection serves as both an historical document and a testimony to Henry’s longevity as a performer.

Not surprisingly the cast list is huge with so many different sessions: Bob plays harp and Henry piano on every track and Henry sings on most.  Joining them are vocalists Nappy Brown, Tail Dragger, Dave Riley, John Brim and Robert Lockwood Jr. Johnny Rapp is the most frequent guitarist but the following also contribute on guitar: Robert Lockwood Jr, Bob Margolin, Kid Ramos, Kirk Fletcher, Big John Atkinson (who also plays drums on one cut), Little Frank, Chris James and Danny Michel.  Paul Thomas is the most used bassist but Bob Stroger, Pops Macfarlane, Kedar Roy, Patrick Rynn, Mario Moreno, Troy Sandow and Yanni Riley also appear.  On drums the late Chico Chism appears on six tracks with Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith, June Core, Eddie Kobek, Steve Cushing and Brian Fahey also appearing.  There are no keyboards other than Henry’s exuberant piano playing but Doug James adds sax to one track.  Bob and Henry also adhere to the principle that performers should be smartly dressed, as can be seen by the dapper suits they are wearing on the cover!

Whilst there are only two of Henry’s original tunes the collection ranges far and wide across tunes that are very familiar to some that are far less so.  Henry’s barrelhouse piano leads us into “Let’s Get High” (Grant Jones) which sounds like a good invitation for an opener, Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith and Bob Stroger adding some enthusiastic backing vocals and Bob adding some great harp.  The title cut is Henry’s tune, a classic blues with Bob Margolin’s slide and Bob’s harp setting a menacing background to Henry’s rolling piano work.  Fats Domino is the source for “I’m In Love Again” and Doug James’ sax adds to the New Orleans feel as Henry sets the pace on piano, a really catchy piece of NO rock and roll.  Henry passes the mike to others on the next two tracks and we hear two greats who have since left us as first Robert Lockwood Jr sings Robert Johnson’s “Ramblin’ On My Mind” in a country blues stomper of a version with Henry’s piano simply terrific.

Nappy Brown’s deep voice rings out clear on Big Maceo Merriweather’s “Worried Life Blues” with Kid Ramos on guitar and Bob stepping in to take another of those harp solos that sounds almost like a wah-wah guitar; June Core’s great drumming here also deserves special mention.  A pair of upbeat tunes follow as Henry takes the mike for “They Raided The Joint” (Joe Eldridge, Aristine Jackson, Oran Page), a super song that we don’t hear that often, then Dave Riley (a regular collaborator with Bob) sings “Ride With Your Daddy Tonight” (Scott Moore); both songs rock along superbly with everyone on top form and Henry giving us some double handed soloing on the latter tune.  Lowell Fulson’s “Trouble Blues” slows the pace with Bob Margolin’s electric slide very distinctive in a classic Chicago style blues that evokes Muddy Waters’ spirit. Henry’s second composition “I’m Gonna Miss You” follows in similar vein on what one suspects is a more recent recording as Henry’s voice sounds older than on some of the cuts here, but it’s another solid track with plenty of great harp and rolling piano.

John Brim is on guitar and vocals on his own “That Ain’t Right” with Big Jon Atkinson on drums before Jon switches to guitar on Ernest Lawler’s “Can’t Afford To Do It” which is great fun with Henry’s almost comic vocals.  Tail Dragger provides the pounding “Boogie Woogie Ball” in which he namechecks everyone playing (which includes great guitar from Kirk Fletcher and Chris James), almost like a MC.  Some Jimmy Reed comes in the shape of “Honey Don’t Let Me Go”, Bob adapting his harp style to fit and Henry’s piano to the fore with some gentle guitar from Johnny Rapp.  The final icing on this cake is provided by “She Don’t Move Me No More” which takes us way back in BB King’s career for another classic blues.

Throughout this fine collection the playing is first class, the song selection good and the guests all contribute well without taking over.  Bob and Henry are superb throughout, stepping up for solos where needed but essentially both men are ensemble players who can clearly, on the strength of this collection, work expertly with a wide range of players.  As this is marked Vol. 1 we can assume that Bob Corritore has more where this came from, so more great music in prospect.  Meanwhile this one can be easily recommended.

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