Well, HARP ATTACK! is finally on the market and beginning to be discovered by blues harp fans everywhere. If you haven’t yet made up your Christmas list, here’s the perfect gift! Of course I haven’t had a moment to sit back and enjoy HARP ATTACK! as I’ve been doing all-nighters in the studio mixing the new Lucky Peterson album, TRIPLE PLAY (as in guitar, keyboards and vocals, all of which Lucky burns up on the new album). I was with Lucky last night at B.L.U.E.S. (he and Kenny Neal and Silent Partners are on a tour together –what a show) and I just can’t get over what an amazing player and soulful a singer Lucky is. It’s just a matter of time until he becomes a star (or as much of a star as you can be in the blues world). And, what a sweet, unassuming guy!
Besides Lucky’s album, we’re getting ready to release a new one by The Mellow Fellows called (appropriately) STREET PARTY. Since Big Twist’s death in March, the band has regrouped and been gigging constantly. Vocals are being handled by Twist’s old pal Martin Allbritton (a great R&B shouter in the Memphis soul tradition) and one of my heroes, tenor saxman Gene “Daddy G” Barge. Gene’s career goes back to the ’50s, when he was arranger and soloist on Gary U.S. Bonds’ hits like “Quarter To Three.” Gene then went to Chess as a producer/arranger (check out the wonderful late ’60s Chess Little Milton sides for some of Gene’s best work). Then he produced gospel for Stax. Gene joined the Mellow Fellows as writer/arranger a few years ago and co-produced their live album for us; now he’s appearing regularly on their shows. It’s a different band than when Twist was singing, more adventuresome and diverse, but no less soulful. If you like Chicago R&B and Memphis soul, check out The Mellow Fellows. Both TRIPLE PLAY and STREET PARTY will be out in November.
I was telling you last time about my decision to sign Lonnie Brooks. I had been so impressed by Lonnie’s performance on the LIVING CHICAGO BLUES series that I felt I HAD to make full album. I was fascinated with Lonnie’s music because he was not the traditional Chicago bluesman. Much of his style was developed before he came here, back home in Louisiana and East Texas, when Lonnie was known as Guitar Junior. His late-’50s singles on Goldband ranged from swamp-pop ballads like “Family Rules” to all- out rockers like “Made In The Shade”. They had that unique South Louisiana sound that includes a lot of country influence (in fact, like a lot of bluesmen, Lonnie loves country music).
Then, when Lonnie came to Chicago, he absorbed the sounds of early ’60s R&B, including a soulful vocal grittiness and a driving, danceable rhythm feel. When we cut “Two Headed Man” for LIVING CHICAGO BLUES, I discovered a whole other aspect of Lonnie’s style –a unique “swampy” groove that sort of funked up John Lee Hooker mixed with what felt to me like a bit of Creedence Clearwater (Lonnie was totally unfamiliar with Creedence) and a sort of backwards Slim Harpo beat. Lonnie’s “voodoo” sound was uniquely his own, and I was determined to feature it on his first Alligator album.
More next time,