Sunday, September 19, 2010

Live 1966 Junior Wells Is Blues Lovers Treat

What a pleasant surprise it was to learn that Delmark was planning to issue a 1966 Boston appearance by Junior Wells. It was recorded shortly after the classic “Hoodoo Man Blues,” was issued but as Scott Dirks notes, instead of the band Junior was using in the clubs (that included Buddy Guy), he travelled with the Aces (Louis and Dave Myers, guitar and bass guitar respectively; and Fred Below on drums). The result is Junior Wells & the Aces, “Live in Boston 1966,” and is a release that will certainly raise the blood pressure of the many fans the late legend had. The hour long performance issued here includes twelves songs interspersed with Wells’ comments and introductions. For those who remember the live tracks on Wells’ Vanguard album “Its My Life Baby,” there with be some similarity although Louis Myers’ guitar style is very different from the more flamboyant fretwork of Guy.

The songs include “Feelin’ Good,” a staple of his repertoire followed by “Man Downstairs,” where he quotes “Mellow Down Easy,” in his solo. He has fun playing with audience at time and clear they are having a good time as he launches into “Worried Life Blues,” with Below helping kick it off with his identifiable drum roll. “Junior’s Whoop,” suggests his fusion of funk and traditional blues as the groove again evokes “Mellow Down Easy,” as urges his woman to come on and scats a bit followed by a tough harp break. Over forty years later, renditions of “That’s All Right,” and “Look On Yonder’s Wall,” would hardly be exciting, but Wells sings strongly on what likely would have staples of his club performances. No such complaint can be made about Wells’ “Messing With the Kid,” which is very similar to Wells’ “Chicago The Blues Today” recording, with Myers playing some of the same riffs as Guy behind the vocal. “Hideaway” is a feature for Louis Myers’ guitar and taken straight before Wells comes in on harp over half way through. Dirks suggests that both “If You Gonna Leave Me,” and “I Don’t Know” (note the Willie Mabon recording), sound like Junior put them together from fragments of songs and illustrates his ability to make these sound like finished songs and display his personality. Myers takes a nice solo on the former number, while Wells opens the latter number on a harp with a nice shuffle groove that evokes his mentor, Sonny Boy ‘Rice Miller’ Williamson’s “Don’t Start Me Talkin,’” and even sings a couple lines in a Rice Miller vein. Myers handles one vocal here, “Got My Mojo Workin’.”

Sound is a slight bit muffled, but that is due to the source material and the restoration does a really good job in presenting the music. It is also handsomely packaged in a digipak. Scott Dirks writes that the power of Junior’s personality comes across here and this writer certainly will not disagree with that assessment. The one omission is lack of information of where this was recorded other than in Boston. (Today, October 6, I learned that it was recorded at the fabled Club 47 in Cambridge). This is a wonderful addition to the Junior Wells discography and certainly should appeal to his fans and fans of solid Chicago blues. 

I received a review copy directly from Delmark Records.

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