Sunday, April 21, 2013

Eddie Taylor Jr's So Called Friends

One of several blues playing and singing children of the late Chicago blues guitarist legend Eddie Taylor, Eddie Taylor Jr. has followed in his father’s footsteps in playing the Delta rooted Chicago blues style that his father was known for. Taylor senior was best known as Jimmy Reed’s guitarist and worked/recorded with others including John Lee Hooker (on Bluesway), Harmonica Hinds and Carey Bell along with a number of fine recordings for Vee-Jay, Advent and other labels. Eddie Junior picked up much from his father and has been prominent amongst those old school Chicago blues musicians of today. He has recorded five albums for the Austrian Wolf label which has issued So Called Friends: His Best 15 Songs, compiled from those earlier releases along with five newly issued recordings. The selections derive from 5 different record dates with Eddie Jr. backed by brother Tim Taylor on drums along with Harmonica Hinds, Roosevelt Purifoy, Detroit Jr., Ken Barker, Johnny B Moore, and others. 

The first five selections are from a recent session with Purifoy and guitarist Anthony Palmer opening with Hound Dog Taylor’s Wild About You Baby, and includes the topical Welfare Blues, as well as a cover of Jimmy Rogers’ You Sweet. This latter number best suits Taylor Jr.’s introverted vocal approach as opposed to the rocking slide guitar Wild About You Baby, which misses the fervor of an Elmore James or the exuberance of Hound Dog Taylor. They are not bad performances, just that Taylor is strongest on certain material. If his vocals are on occasion bland, the music is wonderfully played classic Chicago blues. The title track is an original that borrows the music of Willie Mabon’s Poison Ivy, with Taylor singing that nobody can hurt one but one’s so-called friends with a nice guitar break.

From his prior sessions comes a number of nice performances including his reworking of a Sugar Pie DeSanto recording Use What You Got, as he sings how he keeps his woman satisfied. His father played on Jimmy Reed’s original of Upside Your Your Head, and Eddie Jr. does his father proud on a relaxed cover, as well as a rendition of Magic Sam’s Easy Baby. There is a relaxed shuffle version of Stop Breakin’ Down, on which his playing and singing evokes his father. His brother Larry contributed a nice philosophical slow blues Blues In Your Life, that suits his introverted vocal. Also nice is his rendition of Sonny Boy Williamson I’s My Little Machine, modeled after Jimmy Rogers’ recording. It sports nice slide guitar and strong playing from Harmonica Hinds. More slide is heard on a Shake Your Money Maker variant, Gotta Make This Money, as he tells us about playing his Gibson all around town.

If not always a compelling vocalist, Eddie Taylor Jr. is always engaging and his playing is terrific. So Called Friends is a welcome introduction to a Chicago blues singer and guitarist that does deserve to be better known amongst the general community of blues enthusiasts.

I purchased this CD. Here is Eddie Taylor Jr. in performance.

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