Sunday, August 16, 2009

Smokey Wilson's Blues For Big Town Still Rocks

Ace Records (UK) put out a reissue of some early Smokey Wilson recordings which in my blog I listed as among the best blues of 2006 and this review was carried in the January-February 2007 Jazz & Blues Report and accessible on the web site if you do a search of the reviews. Anyway, Smokey had some health issues, (I remember a stroke) and believe he never has fully resumed playing music, which is a shame because his gritty delta rooted blues is certainly missed today. Anyway, here is my review

Until the early 1990s when he was signed by Bullseye Blues, Smokey Wilson was one of the best blues secrets out on the West Coast. The albums recorded for the Bihari Brothers for Big Town that have been culled for the Ace (UK) CD, Round Like an Apple, The Big Town Recordings 1977-1978 along with recordings made with Rod Piazza and William Clarke indicated what a talent this gentleman who operated the Pioneer Club in Watts was. A Mississippi native, he moved to Los Angeles and established himself on the West Coast. The Big Town Recordings display his powerful straight no-holds barred style that would have been at home at a Little Rock juke as it would a West Side Chicago guitar as Wilson sang with a gritty, gravelly voice that suggested Wolf, as well as played strong guitar whether driving modern single style or slide. Few can match his ability to handle Howlin Wolf’s material like How Many More Years, or remake Night Time is The Right Time into a scorching rocker. The way he tears into a vocal like Johnny Copeland’s I Wish I Was Single, or Low Rider (Deuce & A Quarter) similarly shines. His reworking of Lowell Fulson’s Tramp is marvelous as is the title track with its relentless boogie groove, and the driving Blues For Big Town. These recordings have been unavailable for so long and their reissue is very welcome. One might hope that this sells enough so that Wilson’s other Big Town sides are also made available.

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