Saturday, October 15, 2011

Elmore James Jr's Daddy Provided A Strong Blues Legacy

Children of famous performers sometimes follow in the parents footsteps and others take a fresh turn. In the blues, sons of Muddy waters have performed blues definitely inspired by their legendary father as has singer-guitarist Eddie Taylor, Jr. In contrast, Lurrie Bell took up guitar and daughter Shemekia did not have to worry about be Johnny Copeland Jr. Another son of a blues legend, Elmore James Jr. (real name is Earnest Johnson) put out a recording several years ago, Daddy Gave Me The Blues (JSP) that doesn't simply clone his father's music. On this, his band includes saxophonists Jeff Turmes and Ron Dzuibla, bassist Oakland Red, guitarists Rick Reed and Cadillac Zack and Stephen Mugalian on drums.

The music on Daddy Gave Me The Blues is far more than simply hard slide guitar blues and shuffles. The opening Don't Get Mad is a solid contemporary Chicago blues that suggests John Primer and the late Willie Kent. As a singer, Elmore Jr. sounds more like Homesick James than his father, as can be heard on Going Back Home, a nice slide guitar blues in his father's style. "Tore Down is a fresh reworking of the Freddie King recording built upon a funky groove and bass riff. The reworking of Jimmy Reed's You Don't Have To Go (titled here Oh Baby) finds him back with the slide and an arrangement and sound reminiscent of Homesick James' Baby Please Set a Date. In addition to some strong slide guitar, their is a strutting tenor sax solo.

The title track is a scuffling sounding shuffle with an autobiographical lyric as he talks about about how daddy gave his family a Cadillac in a 1951 and helped him become a musician. Cummins Prison Farm is another song with some slide (again in the Homesick James vein) as Elmore Jr gives a forceful delivery of Calvin Leavy's blues classic about the notorious prison farm with a solid solo likely from Reed or Cadillac Zack in addition to the leader's slide which serves primarily as instrumental foil to his vocals. A highpoint is Electric Man where he sings when I plug into your socket, I can charge you like no man." The song is a strong reworking of Memphis Slim's Grinder Man Blues, with a nice old school solo from him as well. Steppin' With Elmore is a slide guitar instrumental in the fashion of Elmore's Bobby's Rock.

The album closes with an acoustic rendition of Going Back Home, with a nice accompaniment and solid vocal. In fact his vocals have a definite appeal to me. He sings in a straight-forward manner and the performances have a natural soulfulness. While his performances may not have all of the intensity of his father, Daddy Gave Me The Blues is a nicely performed recording worth the consideration of Chicago blues lovers.

I purchased this CD. I should note that I have misplaced my hard copy of this recording so hopefully I did not screw up the personnel listing.

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