Friday, July 20, 2007

Carey Bell's Final Blues

Listening to and watching Carey Bell’s vigorous vocals and harp playing on a new CD/DVD he share with his son Lurrie, Gettin’ Up Live (Delmark), one will be astonished to learn that Carey had suffered a stroke, fell and broke a hip weeks before and yet still appeared at Rosa’s a few days after leaving the hospital. This new recording/ video captures the two at Rosa’s in July, 2006 and at Buddy Guy’s Legend’s in October 2006, along with some intimate performances at Lurrie’s home the day after the Rosa’s performance. With strong supporting musicians for the band sides and the empathy they demonstrate whenever they perform together, the Bells have produced both a strong CD and a delightful DVD. The CD has 4 performances from Rosa’s, Legends, and Lurrie’s home, while the DVD adds two performances from Rosa’s. The band selections are excellent with Roosevelt Purifoy certainly adding solid keyboards in support and the bass drum duos of Bob Stroger & Brian ‘BJ’ Jones or Joe Thomas & Kenny Smith keep things going. Scott Cable joins on guitar on Lurrie’s vocal at Rosa’s (a solid Baby Please Don’t Go) and the Legends’ performances. Carey is first heard on Junior Wells’ What My Mama Told Me, which is appropriate because Bell’s vocals evoke Wells. Gettin’ Up is one of those funky blues Carey was effective at, while at Legends he does a couple of Little Walter numbers along with his Low Down Dirty Shame. In addition to Bell’s vocals and really solid harp, Lurrie is marvelous with his mercurial guitar playing recalling some of Jimmy Dawkins’ equally fiery accompaniments on Carey’s first album over 35 years. Lurrie has really emerged as one of the finest blues guitarists, especially as an accompanist with suggestions of Dawkins and the equally individualistic Hubert Sumlin. Despite the flash and sizzle of his playing, he never overshadows his father’s performances, rather his embellishments and solos strengthen these marvelous performances. Carey handles three vocals at Lurrie’s home in the more intimate setting including John Estes’ Broke and Hungry, and J.T. Brown’s Short Dress Woman, before Lurrie closes things out with a heartfelt traditional gospel number, Stand By Me. The two songs on the DVD not on the CD are older Bell recordings although honestly are a tad bit weaker than those on the CD. The video on the DVD is simple and straightforward and all the more effective for its focus on Carey, Lurrie and their band. No claim that this is the best either has ever done, but this still is a first-rate disc of Chicago Blues that is highly recommended. Enjoy.
This was written prior to Carey's death, and having enjoyed him on disc as well as live over forrty years, I will miss him as will all blues lovers.

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