John Primer still remains true to his blues, deeply rooted in the classic Chicago blues of Muddy Waters and Elmore James. This review of his first US release on Earwig appeared back in Jazz & Blues Report in 1993, when John was still a member of Magic Slim & the Teardrops.
Fans of straight ahead Chicago blues should check out John Primer’s Stuff You Got to Watch on Earwig. The Mississippi born Primer was in the house band at Theresa’s Lounge where he was befriended by the late Sammy Lawhorn. Later he was in Muddy Waters’ last band and has been with Magic Slim and the Teardrops for the past few years. While he has an album for the Austrian Wolf label, this US debut certainly makes one wonder what took him so long to get hooked up with a US label. Among those on this date are fellow Teardrop, Nick Holt, on bass, Harmonica Hinds on harp and Carl Snyder on keyboards. It is an excellent studio band which strongly supports Primer’s delta rooted vocals and guitar . While much of this is Primer’s originals, his covers are imaginative with a strong nod to Muddy on the title track. His renditions of Freddy King’s See See Baby and Magic Sam’s That’s All I Need are wonderfully paced performances while he personalizes Otis Rush’s Double Trouble, giving it a fresh cast that almost is as good as Rush’s original (which had Ike Turner’s guitar in addition to Rush’s). Jimmy and Jeannie Cheatham’s Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On, is answered by Primer’s original Bring Your Clothes Back Home. Less expected is his transformation of Texas country bluesman Little Son Jackson’s Cairo Blues into a Chicago band blues.The instrumental Lawhorn Special is a fitting nod to the late guitar giant and his mentor. To these ears, the only misguided effort is Rhinestone Cowboy (the Glen Campbell pop-country hit), but perhaps it will get him on Nashville Now. This is first-rate album of Chicago blues that comes from (to borrow a Bob Margolin phrase) “The Old School.”