In light of my recent discussion of the excellent JSP box on Walter Horton, this review of an unexpected CD that features Walter Horton is worth bringing to your attention. The review originally appeared in the September 2008 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 308). BTW it is still available from the sources listed at the review’s end and also from itunes.
The bands at most wedding receptions do not generally produce live recordings, but in 1978 Joan and George Nicholas got married in Rhode Island and at the Bocce Club some 150 odd people squeezed into the club which held on 75 to hear a terrific band that included Ted Harvey on drums, Mudcat Ward on bass, Anthony Giarossi on piano and Ronnie Earl Horvath on guitar as well as Sugar Ray Norcia, Guitar Johnny Nicholas and Big Walter Horton, The resulting disc, “Bocce Boogie” (Topcat) is an enjoyable, although not essential, document of that affair.
Opening with ‘ Everyday I Have the Blues,” with Norcia singing and Ronnie Earl taking a hot swing solo. The legendary Big Walter comes on stage for a driving “Walter’s Boogie,” nicely delivered although he is a tad bit too prominent in the mix (while no one is saying this is super high fidelity, although the sound is definitely acceptable). This is followed by Walter doing “Trouble in Mind” (oddly credited to Amos Milburn), as a duet with Guitar Johnny and a cover of Little Walter’s “My Babe” with nice rocking guitar and fine harp to take the song out. Horton’s harp takes the lead before Guitar Johnny belts out the vocal on “Cold Chills,” as well as on Magic Sam’s “That’s Why I’m Cryin’,” on which Sugar Ray plays chromatic harp.
The title track is a rollicking rocker with some blistering guitar runs and Horton’s signature amplified harp wizardry, followed by Horton’s take on that Mexican ode to cockroaches ,“ La Cucaracha.” I suspect it is Ronnie Earl playing the superb Earl Hooker-styled slide guitar on “Sweet Black Angel.” on which Horton handles the vocal. Check out Anthony Giarossi’s fine piano on this track as well. It is followed by a “Baby Please Don’t Go,” patterned on Muddy Waters’ recording of this classic, Horton’s classic “Hard Hearted Woman,” and the rollicking shuffle “Little Bitty Girl,” all with solid support by the band.
Horton was not the strongest vocalist, but certainly sings forcefully, but when he played the harp, one was taken along for the ride. Guitar Johnny returns for a vocal on the hot shuffle “ Tell Me Why,” before Ronnie Earl introduces the performers on the set closer with “Breakin’ With the Earl.” Sound is quite acceptable if the band is a slight bit too prominent in the mix and Horton sounds like he sang through his harp mike, but this is quite an enjoyable set with some real good Walter Horton harmonica (likely to be its biggest selling point).
It is available on cdbaby, amazon and other sources.
For FTC purposes, a review copy of this CD was likely provided by the record company or a publicist.