Double Dealin’ (Bluebeat Music), by William Clarke and Junior Watson) releases material recorded in 1983 at the same time as Clarke’s Rivera label debut Can’t You Hear Me Calling. This recording came after a cross-country US and Canadian tour Clake made with George ‘Harmonica’ Smith and is being issued with the cooperation of Jeanette Clarke-Lodovici. In addition to Clarke’s harmonica and vocals and Watson’s guitar, the band here is Fred Kaplan on piano, Willie Brinlee on bass and Jerry Monte on drums.
I have not heard Can’t You Hear Me Calling, but the reviews on the internet talk about him not sounding as confident as he would on later recordings. I presume that those folks would probably say the same about these contemporaneous recordings. Even if these relatively early sides (his Alligator debut would be 7 years later) may not be as striking as his latter sides, they stand up fairly well to a lot of what passes for blues today. There is plenty of solid harp along with Clarke’s very solid singing. Add Watson’s guitar which comes across as a cross between Willie Johnson’s somewhat wild Sun studio style players like Robert Lockwood and Luther Tucker who played countless sessions with the likes of Little Walter. Kaplan was, and is, a fine two-handed piano player and the rhythm section is solid.
There is a very nice choice of material including an early version of Musta Been Jelly, that he would win a Handy for in 1991, and a tasty cover of Mercy Dee’s One Room Country Shack. Kaplan is featured on the instrumental boogie Groovin’ With Mr. K, while Junior’s Jump features some nice harp along with Watson ripping off a tough guitar solo in which he interpolates melodies from big band jump numbers into his solo.
While no revelation here, fans of William Clarke, post-war harmonica blues, and the comntemporary West Coast blues style will find much to their liking. For more information on this, check out www.bluebeatmusic.com.
I received a review copy from Bluebeat Music.