Sunday, April 08, 2007

Snooks Eaglin Live

Has it been Ten Years since Black Top issued Snnoks Eaglin's Live in Japan. A poorly distributed studio album of Snooks had been issued after this, but its amazing that such a striking talent as Mr. Eaglin has not been in the studio in about a decade to present his highly idiosyncratic music.

Here is a review of this album that appeared in Jazz & Blues Report when it was issued.

A new Snooks Eaglin album is cause for celebration enough, but Eaglin’s new Black Top album also marks the return of the Black Top label that had been in hiatus since severing ties with its previous distributor. Live in Japan was recorded during Eaglin’s first Japanese tour, and he is backed by bassist George Porter’s trio (John Autin on keyboards and Jeffrey ‘Jellybean’ Alexander on drums). He gets to reprise songs he has recorded over the years with a few new surprises in terms of material. Eaglin is an exceptional guitarist, often referred to as the Professor Longhair of the guitar with a very individualistic, highly rhythmic instrumental chicken scratching attack, as well as being a fountainhead of material that lead some to call him a human jukebox. Whatever. The man is a dazzling and very effective guitarist. After opening with a Bill Doggett instrumental, Eaglin gets the second line groove going with I Went to the Mardi Gras, that he co-authored with Tommy Ridgely, followed by Earl King’s Soul Train, a superb soul dance number with a solo that is deceptively simple. Then there’s Don’t Take It So Hard, a swamp pop flavored blues ballad. Classic New Orleans is reprised in renditions of Fats Domino’s Josephine and Smiley Lewis’ Down Yonder (We Go Ballin’) and Lillie Mae. It’s interesting to hear Eaglin introduce Down Yonder, telling the Japanese audience he played on Smiley’s original recording. Eaglin is most effective as a singer on laments like Nine Pound Steel, while his guitar’s vocalizations during the solos serves to remind us of why the blues guitar is often referred to as the singer’s other voice. Covers of the Isley Brother’s It’s Your Thing, and Stevie Wonder’s (Boogie On) Reggae Woman get a nice funky groove going. A strong vocal is also given Jessie Mae Robinson’s Black Night.

This serves as a splendid sampler of Eaglin’s music, illustrating his depth as a performer and guitarist, although his skills as a bop guitarist is only hinted at. Snooks Eaglin is an American original, but one probably has a better chance of seeing Snooks in Japan than in the US outside of New Orleans. Well, at least you don’t have to go to Japan to get this album.

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