Of the original eleven selections, only West Helena Woman was not associated with Little Walter, who had died months prior to this recording. It had been a song Smith had recorded several times prior, but like the other performances here was a stunning sample of the classic Chicago blues sound. From the opening moments of Mellow Down Easy, this is classic Chicago blues as represented by the Waters Band. Spann is brilliant in support (listen to his accompaniment on Can’t Hold Out Much Longer while Smith sings and plays in a robust manner. His full-bodied tone on this perhaps is not as clean as Walter was on his best recordings, but had a sharpness to it. Another outstanding selection is the reworking of Last Night, which is a stunning slow blues performance that stands up well to Walter’s original.
Not included on the original vinyl album release (which I purchased when it was originally issued) is a terrific rendition of Goin’ Down Slow, with some stinging guitar fills and a brief break by Muddy Waters. Another bonus selection is Little Walter’s Just a Feelin’. The album closes with an excellent vocal by Lucille Spann, Love With a Feelin’. Smith sits out on this selection which like the music on the Smith recording has some of the feel of Otis Spann’s Bluesway album The Bottom of the Blues that the Muddy Waters Band played on and which Lucille sang on some selections.
The original Pete Welding album notes are included along with new notes by Tony Russell which includes an interview from Steve LaVere who produced the LP with Welding about how the session came about. Russell adds perspective on how this release was received at the time and Smith’s subsequent recording career. Sound is quite good and this reissue of some classic Chicago blues is overdue and quite welcome.
I purchased this CD. Here is a little video of George 'Harmonica' Smith performing.