Record Review: Chicago Blues – A Living History

by | Jul 6, 2011 | Reviews

Various Artists
Chicago Blues: A Living History
The (R)evolution Continues
Chicago, IL

“South Side’s finest”

In this superb follow up to 2009’s Grammy nominated Chicago Blues: A Living History, some of the greatest living bridges between blues past and present have again assembled for what is undoubtedly as fine a blues album you will hear this year.

These bridges: Billy Boy Arnold, Lurrie Bell, John Primer, Billy Branch, and Carlos Johnson exude the confidence and mastery of musicians who grew up working with masters Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Carey Bell and Sonny Boy Williamson.  And as if it needed any more pedigree, living legends Buddy Guy, James Cotton, and Magic Slim make appearances as well.

Spanning the 1940s to the 1990s, from Lonnie Johnson piano lines, to Bo Diddley rhythms, to Elmore James guitar licks, every track is a gem providing a snapshot of the era.  However, it is not intended as a definitive overview or a stuffy historical compilation.  Each song is freshly realized; sharp and brimming with the vitality of men who have lived to tell the tale – and have a few more tales left.

“When I play my blues on the South Side, my people won’t support it,” Ronnie Baker Brooks sang of the state of Chicago Blues in 1998.  13 years later, the Living History band sings the same lyrics without lamentation, but with a sense of exultation.  They’re not here to revive a genre’s popularity.  They’re here to celebrate a genre’s longevity.  They’re still playing, still standing – and whether you’re a diehard fan or just curious, you should be listening. (Novo Arts, Inc.)

Produced by Larry Skoller