Chicago blues so dusky and redolent of back alleys and pubs that you can almost order a beer from the liner notes. Chris James belts out in a no-nonsense voice while slinging a guitar missing none of the prime-years taste and tang, nor is there any lack of boogie sessionmen cathousin' the piano to sass things up. Pat Rynn is his constant bass back-up, laying down the rhythms, and the two have worked out a hand-in-glove rapport over 18 years of playing in and out of the home group Blue Four.
The boys know their influences, too, choosing to cover the great Elmore James in four cuts, catchin' Bo Diddley, Snooky Pryor, and Jay McShann on the rebound. The rest of the menu is theirs but you'd barely know it, so closely do their own compositions groove with the elder masters. Whether it's Bo's Mona or the James / Rynn Relaxin' at the Clarendon, these guys kick it out amid a well-selected roster of a baker's dozen sessioneers. James' slide is a constant pleasure, and the gents have chosen to tone back the presence of a horn section, keeping to just saxes smokily blowing in the background rather than big banding it.
In these cats' music, one can see the Chicago skyline as well as luminescent dives and speakeasies with cigarette smoke and whiskey fumes wafting through the speakers, cats yowling down the lane, insistent chords luring the barcrawler from one bittersweet delight to the next. Because of the Elmore James influence, you can expect a bit of ol' Georgie Thorogood to come sliding through, but James hangs his lines in the air more often, preferring a more lubricious caterwaul, as Hawaiian Boogie clearly shows. No matter where you set the player to cut in, you're going to get a full-bodied dose, but my suggestion is that you start at the beginning and just let it crank.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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