Just returned from everywhere (Brazil for the 2nd annual Brazil Blues Fest, California where I recorded a live album with Little Charlie and the Nightcats, Nashville for the independent labels convention, Washington where Koko filmed an appearance for the CBS show “Nightwatch,” plus New York, Cincinnati, etc.)* Feels like I’m living either in an airport or in the studio. Speaking of the studio, I just finished recording one of the most exciting albums of my career, a harmonica super session with Junior Wells, James Cotton, Carey Bell and Billy Branch! The idea was inspired of course by “Showdown!,” but this was a much harder album to make, because it’s pretty ordinary for multiple guitars to play lead and rhythm, but much more difficult for harps to back one another up. But the musicians were fired up and made it all work. We had a GREAT time in the studio, with everyone trying to “cut” everyone. We’re calling it “Harp Attack” and it will be out in late summer.
Meanwhile, if you’re just dying for some new blues records, and you’ve already bought the latest by Charlie Musselwhite, Saffire–The Uppity Blues Women, The Paladins and Raful Neal, I’ve got a couple of new ’gators to tell you about.
If you’ve been hiding under a rock, you may not know we’ve just released Koko Taylor’s first new album in three years– JUMP FOR JOY. It was a hard couple of years for Koko, first with her severe injuries when her van went off the side of a mountain in 1988, then with the death of her husband last year. Koko was determined to make an album that proved she was 100% back at the top of her form. JUMP FOR JOY is just that. Besides some truly great vocals, Koko and I organized a super band. To top it off, Lonnie Brooks joined Koko for a duet, and Billy Branch sat in on harp, plus Gene Barge arranged horns for four songs. Koko wrote three new tunes for this album, and they’re outstanding.
And we cut a version of a blues ballad, “Time Will Tell,” that may be Koko’s best recorded performance EVER. Koko just tears it apart and puts back together in a real emotional “tour de force.” Queen of the Blues indeed.
Along with JUMP FOR JOY, we’ve re-rcleased another classic from the Kingsnake catalog. It’s by one of the seminal R&B tenor players, Noble “Thin Man” Watts, and it’s called RETURN OF THE THIN MAN. If you love that Big Tenor sound of the early ’50s, you’ll love this album. But don’t misunderstand– RETURN OF THE THIN MAN isn’t a reissue of some old 78s; it was cut only three years ago with a young band that pushes Noble into some hot and horny honking. This is what R&B is supposed to be!
I still haven’t told you about the first live album ever by one of the truly great American blues/roots guitarists, Lonnie Mack. It’s called LIVE!–ATTACK OF THE KILLER V (as in Gibson Flying V guitar #7, which Lonnie bought new in the ’50s). If you’ve ever seen Lonnie live, I don’t have to tell you anything else–you already know! If not, all I can say is that it’s fiery, no-bull blues and rock with all the stops pulled out. I’ve always said that Lonnie is the most soulful white man I ever heard, but maybe I should change that to say he’s one of the most soulful blues men I ever heard, period.
Finally, I’ve been able to fulfill a dream. I’ve acquired U.S. rights to the cream of the acoustic session that Sonny Boy Williamson cut in Denmark in 1963! The album is called KEEP IT TO OURSELVES and it includes the best songs from the two hard-to-find Storyville albums. The performances are largely improvised, with just Sonny Boy on harp and vocals and Matt “Guitar” Murphy accompanying, plus Memphis Slim on piano for a couple cuts. This is a different side of Sonny Boy, very gentle and personal, and provides a wonderful counterpoint to his famous band recordings. Sonny Boy is one of my heroes, and I can’t tell you how exciting it is to have him on Alligator. Obviously there’s no space left for reminiscing. So, next time…