Saturday, December 15, 2012

Eddie Burns Remembered With Snake Eyes

Word arrived by vocalist and harmonica player, Eddie Burns one of the centerpieces of the downhome post-war Detroit Blues Scene, passed away Wednesday, December 12, 2002. Burns was perhaps best known for being part of John Lee Hooker's Band for part of the fifties. The Mississippi native was influenced by John Lee 'Sonny Boy' Williamson and also Big Bill Broonzy. He was an adept harmonica player who was heard on Hooker's brilliant early recording of Burnin' Hell, on Sensation, along with the Chess album, The Real Folk Blues. He recorded a number of singles and some albums over the years for labels that included Harvey, Von, Checker, Blue Suit and Delmark. In 2002 I reviewed his Delmark album, Snake Eyes in the September/October Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 259) which follows.

Delmark has recently issued this latest album, Snake Eyes, by another under recorded blues veteran, Eddie Burns. Burns is a veteran of the Detroit blues scene, including playing with John Lee Hooker on a number of Hooker’s finest band recordings. He shares some influences with Hooker including Tommy McLennan, but in addition to being a fine rhythmic guitarist he is a capable harmonica player indebted to John Lee ‘Sonny Boy' Williamson. 

Delmark, which has issued a couple of albums by his younger brother Jimmy. On Snake Eyes, Eddie Burns is joined by brother Jimmy on guitar along with pianist Roosevelt Purifoy, bassist Nick Charles (brother of Magic Slim) and drummer Larry Taylor in an album of postwar ensemble blues. Playing both acoustic guitar as well as electric guitar and harmonica, Burns’ simple, effective playing and his straightforward plaintive singing result in delightful traditionally oriented blues. 

There are echoes of classic Muddy Waters’ stop-time grooves on Night Shift, while the rollicking Papa Likes to Boogie evidences the influence of Williamson. A spirited remake of the Drifters’ Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ But Trash, is joined by a tasteful cover of Memphis Slim’s Lend Me Your Love. wile Going to New Orleans is similar to recordings by Otis Spann and Lonnie Johnson. The two Burns play acoustic guitars on the shuffle Treat Me Like I Treat You

The backing band is wonderful, and with Burns’ honest and heartfelt performances, Snake Eyes is a gem.

I probably received a review copy from Delmark and I have made some minor stylistic edits. Nick Charles is not Nick Holt, who was Magic Slim's brother, but a different person. Thanks to the members of the Facebook group, The Real Blues Forum, for pointing this error. Also on that forum was a suggestion that Burns harmonica with John Lee Hooker in 1949 (the Burnin' Hell session) may have been the first recording of amplified harmonica on record.

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