Monday, September 24, 2012

Al Garrett Climbing Out Of Bad Luck

The following review appeared originally in the January-February 2000 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 243) as one of three reviews I did of recent releases on Fedora Records. I have made a few minor changes to the original review.

Among recent releases from Fedora Records are albums by J.J. Malone, Mojo Buford and Al Garrett. Garrett is the least known of the three, and while based in the Fresno, California area, was born in Memphis. His dad played juke joints in the delta in the 20s. When the family moved to the Los Angeles area, he became part of the R&B scene there, playing bass with the likes of Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, Smokey Wilson, Roy Brown and Lowell Fulson. 

Listening to his debut album, Out of Bad Luck, one cannot help but notice Magic Sam's influence in both his vocal phrasing and some of his guitar playing. Bobby Logan's tenor sax also contributes this feel as his playing suggests that of Eddie Shaw on the Black Magic album. Garrett sings and plays well, but one will find little original here in his covers, although his performances are not slavish covers. 

There is a nice mix of material here, ranging from the title track and Jimmy McCracklin's I Just Got to Know, to Guitar Slim's rocking shuffle, You Give Me Nothing But the Blues, and the stark, topical Cummins Prison Farm, with a strong, passionate vocal.  Even if he is not nearly as accomplished as Magic Sam, his playing here does suggest how Sam would have sounded doing Little Walter's Last Night and B.B. King's Please Love Me

If far from essential, Garrett's Out of Bad Luck does have plenty of pleasures to offer blues listeners.

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