This year’s Chicago Blues Festival, presented the second weekend in June, was one of the best in years. With beautiful weather, a new, out-of-the-sun location for the Crossroads Stage, and, above all, with outstanding sets by any number of blues artists from all over the country, it was just what a blues festival should be (and free, too). Lil’ Ed, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater and especially James Cotton were highlights of the Chicago Blues: Old School, New Millennium revue on Sunday night. Cotton was in great spirits, celebrating the success of his new Cotton Mouth Man album and blowing his signature blast-furnace harmonica while John Primer delivered the vocals. At 78, Cotton still takes the same joy in making music as he did when he started blowing harp with Sonny Boy Williamson at the age of nine. I can’t begin to tell you what a pleasure it is just to be in the presence of this larger-than-life, fun-loving and wonderfully soulful musician.
One of the artists everyone missed was our old friend Magic Slim, who died earlier this year. Slim’s son, Shawn “Lil Slim” Holt, delivered a tribute set, and many other artists mentioned Slim with great affection. It brought back my memories of Florence’s Lounge on the South Side, where Slim dropped by every Sunday to sit in with Hound Dog Taylor. Slim was just developing his signature Mississippi-to-Chicago sound then, with its raw intensity and rock-solid grooves. (When Hound Dog began touring after the release of his Alligator debut, Hound Dog Taylor & The HouseRockers, he gave this gig to Magic Slim & The Teardrops, declaring them to be his favorite band). No matter who was in his band, Slim expected them to deliver those tough Teardrops grooves. He started virtually every song playing the rhythm part that he wanted to hear from his second guitarist, and only when the band was locked and totally danceable, would he launch into a solo or vocal. The way Slim figured it, if you couldn’t fill the dance floor (or in Florence’s case, the aisle between the tables and bar), you were doing something wrong. We first recorded Slim in 1978 for our Living Chicago Blues series, and later for Hound Dog Taylor: A Tribute. Slim never made a bad album; among his best was one he cut in France for Isabel Records. We licensed it for the rest of the world and released it in 1982 under the title Raw Magic. You can hear tracks from Raw Magic and all our releases on the jukebox at www.alligator.com. And don’t forget to “Join” on our home page and receive information about Alligator artists coming to your area, a chance to order autographed copies of our new releases, and all kinds of other goodies.
As you read this, we’re releasing Roomful of Blues’ 45 Live, the first live album in years by this swinging, jumping, horn-driven eight-piece band from Rhode Island. They sound like no one else on the blues scene, reviving the spirit and energy of the R&B horn bands of the late 1940s and early 1950s without being copycats. 45 Live delivers over an hour of Roomful at their best, with songs from their entire history. It’s guaranteed to rock the house.
Besides Roomful, a bevy of other Alligator artists have been in the studio recently. Look for a new album later in the fall from New Orleans’ amazing singer/ songwriter/guitarist Anders Osborne, and early in 2014 we’ll be releasing new discs from some of Alligator’s finest–Tommy Castro, Joe Louis Walker and The Holmes Brothers.
I’ve been telling you about the recording of Edge of the City, The Kinsey Report’s 1987 Alligator debut, which melded straight ahead blues with rock, funk and reggae influences and up-to-the-minute lyrics. I hope by now I’ve intrigued you enough so you’ll check out this groundbreaking album, and their later Alligator releases, Midnight Drive and Smoke & Steel. I’m glad to see that Donald Kinsey has been making more appearances recently, and I hope that The Kinsey Report might step back onto center stage in the blues world. Few bands have had such deep roots along with such a well-defined vision of the future of the blues.
More next time,