Thursday, August 02, 2007

Jimmy 'T-99' Nelson's Rockin' and Shoutin' the Blues

In light of Jimmy 'T-99' Nelson's passing, it is appropriate to remember him in this review from 1999 that appeared in the January-February issue of Jazz & Blues Report.

Big throated shouter Jimmy T-99 Nelson is among the last surviving of the blues shouters that were prevalent during the swing era and up through the emergence of rock and roll. Philadelphia born Nelson found his musical calling in 1941 when he was in San Francisco and saw Harlan Leonard’s Rockets (the liner notes misspell this as Rockers) with whom Big Joe Turner was singing. Turner became his idol and musical idol, and Nelson followed in Turner’s footsteps, performing with him and even writing some songs for him. He also recorded over the years for several labels, the most notable being Modern Records with who he recorded T-99, a reworking of the classic Honeydripper Blues backed by the Peter Rabbit Trio, who repeated the title in the background. It reached #6 in the R&B charts and the next year Nelson scored with a slow blues, Meet Me With Your Black Dress On , which is a totally different song from the Cheatham’s Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On.

Bullseye Blues and Jazz just released a terrific new album by Nelson, Rockin’ and Shoutin’ the Blues. The album brings together some originals along with fine renditions of blues covers. A top-flight band includes Matt McCabe on piano, Clarence Holliman on guitar and the horns of Doug James, Rich Lataille and Carl Querfurth from Roomful of Blues. It is a swinging band with some crisp horn charts. Nelson opens with a medium-tempoed rocker, letting everybody know they are in the House of the Blues. There is a standout rendition of Leroy Carr’s How Long, How Long Blues along with an affecting rendition of the ballad Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying. He rocks the house with his own New Shack Lover while able to croon affably on When You’re Smiling before closing the album with a rocking rendition of one of the numbers from Doc Pomus that Turner made famous, Boogie Woogie Country Girl, as well as a nice version of Sweet Mr. Cleanhead, a song associated with Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson. While I am surprised some of his own early Modern recordings were not redone, everything here is wonderfully sung and played. With far lesser talents being heralded as the latest thing, its good to have a release by this veteran who still shows how it is done right.

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