Its been a few years since Delmark issued a live performance by Tail Dragger on CD and DVD. The prior release, “My Head Is Bald, Live At Vern’s Friendly Lounge, Chicago,” was well received and reportedly one of Delmark’s better selling releases. Three years later they follow with “Live at Rooster's Lounge,” with the Howlin’ Wolf inspired James Y. Jones performs straight Chicago blues in the vein of his mentor and friend as he redoes some of Wolf tunes along with some similarly structured originals and a few tunes associated with Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter and John Lee Hooker, although played in a Wolf-style.
This is a well-played performance with a solid band that includes Rockin’ Johnny Burgin and Kevin Shanahan on guitars, Martin Lang on harp, Todd Fackler on bass and Rob Lorenz on drums with Jimmy Dawkins added to one track. Jones is an expressive singer who suggests Wolf but whose slurred diction does detract a bit from the forcefulness of the performances and the band plays idiomatically. Shanahan and Dawkins are the only ones returning the earlier CD/DVD which benefited greatly from Lurrie Bell’s mercurial guitar. There is certainly nothing wrong with Jones’ covers of “Louise,” “Baby Please Don’t Go,” or “I’m in the Mood’, his own “Stop Lyin’,” and “Bought Me a New Home,” but also nothing amazing about them either. The DVD has additional performances and Delmark’s usual straight-forward video qualities.
On its own, an enjoyable, if unexceptional, recording. If you have the prior live recording, I find little here to call this a must purchase. This one may be easier to find and one might be fan of this viewing Tail Dragger as a Wolf tribute artist, but he is not such a compelling performer that the general blues fan would need everything he has recorded.
Since I wrote this, I received a email from Kevin Johnson at Delmark who reminds me this CD marks return of Rockin Johnny to recording and performing after almost a decade disappearance! Johnny has been one of the better young guitarists in Chicago at playing in a more traditional Chicago blues vein and its welcome that he is back in circulation.
For purposes of FTC regulations, I received a review copy of this from Delmark.