Saturday, May 13, 2017

George “Big” Wheeler Bone Orchard

George “Big” Wheeler*
Bone Orchard

Classic Chicago harmonica blues can be heard in this debut album by veteran Chicago harpist, George ‘Big’ Wheeler. A Georgia native, he became friends with Little Walter who was a big influence, however his own style is more akin to the country flavor of a Smokey Smothers or Jimmy Reed than the fat saxophone-like sound of Walter.

Backed by the Ice Cream men, a band devoted to the classic Chicago blues band sound, he turns in a tasty set of originals along with covers from Jimmy Rogers, Little Walter, Joe Turner, Jimmy Reed and B.B. King. Wheeler is certainly an enjoyable singer and a pleasing harp player in his older style, and the Ice Cream Men (who previously backed Smokey Smothers for Blind Pig), do a credible job in backing Wheeler on an unpretentious, enjoyable recording.

I likely received a review copy from Delmark Records. This review appeared in the September 1993 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 183). The Ice Cream Men, referred to in this review included Rockin' Johnny Burgin on guitar. This is available as CD and as a download. 

*I should note that it is Golden, not George Wheeler, but since I had it wrong when the review originally ran, I will leave the review as is and have this correction here.

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