Chicago Blues A Living History - The (R)evolution Continues

Posted by Michael Mueller on June 23, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Chicago Blues - Revolution ContinuesIn 2009, the 2-CD set Chicago Blues: A Living History paid homage to the blues pioneers who created the Chicago sound as well as the current musicians who carry the Windy City blues torch. The album was warmly received by fans and critics alike, even receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Blues Album and numerous other blues awards. So, the folks behind that fabulous set have just released Chicago Blues A Living History: The (R)evolution Continues, a 2-CD set that presents that sweet-home sound in all its Second City glory.

Blues guitar tab, video lessons, and jam tracks

Produced by Larry Skoller and backed by the Living History Band (Billy Flynn, guitar; Matthew Skoller, harmonica; Kenny "Beady Eyes" Smith, drums; Felton Crews, bass; Johnny Iguana, keys), this new 2-CD set features the music of such iconic bluesmen as Lonnie Johnson, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley, Elmore James, and Otis Rush, played by equally influential artists like Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Magic Slim, and Ronnie Baker Brooks, among others.

The set kicks off with the Lonnie Johnson gem "He's a Jelly Roll Baker," with Billy Flynn capturing the sound and spirit of Johnson's tasty, jazz-inflected single-note lines. On the electrified Delta blues of Muddy Waters' 1949 piece "Canary Bird," guitarist John Primer gives a wonderful reading of Waters's genre-defining slide lines. On "Rocket 88," 75-year old James Cotton whips out his harp and reprises the classic blowing on the same tune from his 1974 release 100% Cotton. Disc 1 wraps up Diddley-beat style via a medley of Little Walter's "Mellow Down Easy" and Bo Diddley's "Bo Diddley."

Buddy Guy sits in on both vocals and guitar for Little Brother Montgomery's "First Time I Met the Blues" to launch Disc 2 in grand Chicago fashion. Guy's playing is downright fierce here, unfortunately dwarfing Flynn's otherwise stellar effort. Up next is Magic Slim's take on the Chuck Willis tune "Keep a Drivin'," in which Slim is reunited with his former Teardrops colleague John Primer. Two tunes later, Primer takes on the vocals of Howlin' Wolf, arguably the most influential blues singer of all time, on his 1962 side "Howlin' For My Baby." Disc 2 then leaps through time to 1980, for a Zora Young-led take on Sunnyland Slim's "Be Careful How You Vote." After a brief retreat to the '60s for the jazz-touched Fenton Robinson classic "Somebody Loan Me a Dime," which features some of Flynn's niftiest fretwork in the set, we jump back into '80s and '90s, with late-life work from Lonnie Brooks and Otis Rush, before closing the set proper with Ronnie Baker Brooks's 1998 track "Make These Blues Survive," which features the feistiest guitar playing the album—save for Buddy Guy's—courtesy of Mr. Brooks, one of the preeminent Chicago blues musicians on the scene today.

The set also offers the bonus track version of Muddy Waters's "The Blues Had a Baby (and They Named it Rock and Roll)," extensive liner notes that offer background on the Chicago Blues: A Living History project, as well as informative commentary on each track, a timeline of Chicago blues history, and myriad quotes from the Living History Band.

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