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Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch and Lurrie Bell - Chicago Blues: A Living History

Chicago Blues:
A Living History

Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer,
Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell

Raisin' Music

Available from Raisin' Music.

A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Bob Gottlieb

This is a very interesting two CD project that takes the talents of two generations of Chicago Blues traditionalists and has them interpret some of the songs that were done by the musicians that first created and formed the traditional blues of the South, those who both electrified and turned it into more of an ensemble with drums form. Theses are the names all Blues people know such as; Sonny Boy Williamson, Buddy Guy, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Otis Rush and all those others whose names bring back the whole feeling of the music as played on record labels such as Chess, Cobra, and Delmark; at rent parties and in clubs on the South and West sides of Chicago (Silvio's, the Flame Club, and Gatewood's Tavern, etc.); and on the radio by stations such as the Chess Brothers' WVON. It was a time of transition and reformation and great migrations of people were taking place and music was a factor in recalling the Southern rural home that was left and the future northern city homes.

These four musicians are the link from the new generation of Blues artists that are playing and attempting to add to the tradition that is Chicago Blues, and those who established the benchmarks and wrote the songs that Blues musicians the world over know and treasure. Songs written by the likes of McKinley Morganfield's (AKA Muddy Waters) Feel Like Going Home, Junior Wells', Hoodoo Man Blues, and Walter Jacobs' (AKA Little Walter), Hate To See You Go, are just a few of the tunes. The discs are well organized in that Disc 1 is 1940 to 1955, and Disc 2 goes from 1955 to the present day. These four take turns with the vocals and the lead instruments as you have 2 harmonica players, Billy Branch and Billy Boy Arnold, and 2 guitar players John Primer and Lurrie Bell. They are also backed by The Living History Band which is comprised of Matthew Skoller, harmonica; Billy Flynn, guitar; Johnny Iguana, keyboards; Felton Crews, bass; and Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith, drums. An additional bonus is the very good liner notes that have histories and stories of those originators, as well as those that are the links to the present. Most of the songs work and work well, but there were a few that, at least to my ear, should not have been selected because they are so iconic. An excellent selection and a worthy effort by all involved.

Track List:

  • My Little Machine - Billy Boy Arnold
  • She's Love Crazy - Billy Boy Arnold
  • Night Watchman Blues - Billy Boy Arnold
  • Chicago Breakdown - Johnny Iguana
  • Feel Like Going Home - John Primer
  • I Believe - Lurrie Bell
  • Moanin at Midnight - John Primer
  • Three O clock Blues - Billy Boy Arnold
  • Memphis Slim USA - Billy Boy Arnold
  • Hate To See You Go - Billy Branch
  • Sugar Sweet - John Primer
  • Cant Stand To You Go - John Primer
  • I Wish You Would - Billy Boy Arnold
  • Your Imagination - John Primer
  • My Love Will Never Die - Lurrie Bell
  • Hoodoo Man Blues - Billy Branch
  • Hooking It - Billy Flynn
  • Out of Bad Luck - Mike Avery
  • One More Mile - Billy Branch
  • The Healer - Carlos Johnson
  • Damn Right, I Got The Blues - Lurrie Bell/Carlos Johnson

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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