Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Lurrie Bell Talks About Love
Son of the legendary Carey Bell, its somewhat astonishing to realize that Lurrie Bell has been playing the blues for thirty odd years since being a founding member of the Sons of the Blues with Billy Branch and Freddie Dixon. The years have seen him work with the likes of his father, Eddie Clearwater, Koko Taylor and others while starting with the aptly titled Mercurial Son for Delmark which developed a following by astute blues enthusiasts and jazz-blues critics. Fighting personal demons, his partner Susan Greenberg, an artist, photographer and mother of their daughter, helped him find his way, but this year has been a hard one with her death followed shortly by his father’s passing, ironically around the time of the Delmark CD/DVD Getting Up Live, by Carey & Lurrie. Other recent work by him, including on the Delmark CD/DVDs by Tail Dragger and Mississippi Heat displayed his strong, distinctive playing, able to mix some of Hubert Sumlin’s quirky unpredictable style with some classic West Side guitar evoking Otis Rush, he has a wonderful disc on Aria B.G. Records, Let’s Talk About Love.
Produced by Matthew Skoller, Lurrie is backed by a band that includes Anthony Palmer on rhythm guitar, Felton Crews on bass, and Kenny smith on drums, joined on tracks by Sidney James Wingfield or Johnny Iguana on piano or organ; and Billy Branch of Matt Skoller on harp. Its a solid band that provides a solid foundation for Lurrie to deliver a varied and highly entertaining set. Mostly comprised of covers, I would be hard pressed to name a single song that will be familiar to many. The disc opens with a title track a West Coast swinger by singer-composer Al King, followed by Willie Dixon’s Earthquake and Hurricanes (on which Billy Branch adds his harp. The former is a solid modern urban blues, while the latter comes off as a solid Chicago blues performance. Andrew Brown’s pleading West Side Chicago Blues You Ought to Be Ashamed is winningly delivered with typically strong guitar before Lurrie takes on Pops Staples Why (Am I Treated So Bad), contributing some atmospheric guitar. He acoustically tackles J.B. Lenoir’s Feeling Good, with Jimmy Johnson adds a backing vocal. Little Richard’s slow blues Directly From My Heart to You, is most evocative of Otis Rush with strong guitar and soulful singing. Producer Skoller adds strong harp to the rendition of Willie Dixon’s Chicago is Loaded With the Blues. Adding in songs from Hip Linkchain, Smokey Smothers, and Willie Williams, Bell shows just how soulful a singer he has become as well as an strong guitarist with a lean, distinctive sound that lets the music breathe as opposed to attacking a solo with a sledgehammer style. The band is marvelously unobtrusive in backing him, providing wonderful grooves that never sound hurried or rushed. I would be hard-pressed to name an album by Lurrie Bell not worth hearing, but the strength of his playing and natural, heartfelt singing here makes Let’s Talk About Love, highly recommended.