Thursday, October 26, 2017

Howlin' At Greaseland

Howlin' At Greaseland
West Tone Records

Some veterans and new names join together for a tribute to Howlin' Wolf that was recorded at Kid Andersen's' Greaseland studio and has a cover inspired by Wolf's Rockin' Chair album. Assembled for this besides Andersen on guitar, bass and piano, are Rick Estrin and Aki Kumar on harp, Lorenzo Farrell, Jim Pugh and Henry Gray on piano, Rockin' Johnny Burgin, Johnny Cat, and Chris James on guitar; Joe Kyle Jr, Patrick Rynn, Robby Yamilov and Vance Ehlers on bass; Derrick Dmar Martin, and Junior Core on drums; and Terry Hanck on sax, with vocals from Gray, Hanck, Alabama Mike John Blues Boyd, Lee Donald and Tail Dragger on vocals.

There are solidly played and sung performances in the manner of the originals, if not quite of the level of the originals. After all, there was only one Howlin' Wolf. Alabama Mike sings with urgency on "Meet Me In The Bottom," with Estrin's harmonica and Farrell's piano featured while "Smokestack Lightning," has the first of Boyd's vocals with Estrin doing a nice evocation of Wolf's harp over the solid vocal. Boyd also recalled seeing Wolf in 1956 visiting a school friend of his before launching into a rollicking "Riding in the Moonlight," with the spirit of Willie Johnson suggested in the guitar backing. After recalling, his father booking Howlin' Wolf in the sixties in suburban Chicago, Terry Hanck handles "Howlin' For My Darling," with a fine vocal and strong sax, while Johnny Cat emulates Hubert Sumlin.

Tail Dragger has a couple of recollections of Wolf here along with performances of "I'm Leaving You," and "Don't Trust No Woman," with his slightly muffled vocals with strong accompaniment from Rockin' Johnny Burgin on guitar, and Aki Kumar on harp. Henry Gray, who spent 14 years in Wolf's band, is backed by Chris James, Patrick Rynn, Ali Kumar (who shares the vocal) and Junior Core, doing a solid "Worried Life Blues." I believe this is the only song here not identified with Wolf. Also, Gray sings and plays "Little Red Rooster, with Kid Andersen's acoustic guitar the only other backing.

I am not familiar with Lee Donald, who is the strong vocalist on "Forty Four," and Boyd sings robustly on "Spoonful" that closes "Howlin' At Greaseland." While there is nothing earthshaking here, this is a fine, straightforward homage to one of the icons of the blues.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is John 'Blues' Boyd singing a Wolf classic not on this album, "Back Door Man."

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