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Bob Margolin

In North Carolina

(Steady Rollin'; US: 23 Jan 2007; UK: Available as import)

Bob Margolin likes playing blues (and did so as Muddy Waters’ longtime guitarist); he has a very attractive baritone voice, notable on a final track here which is just reminiscence of a 1960s—and continuing— blues revivalist’s life on the road; and always sings in a key comfortable for his voice, which denies him some distinction as would-be blues singer. John Lee Hooker sang at a very low pitch, so did Lightnin’ Hopkins, but they had very, very deep, almost contrabass, voices. They usually sang in the top octaves available to them. Margolin’s different vocal approach gives his performances a different character from traditional blues. On this home-compiled set, he uses overdubbing to combine guitars and bass and percussion as the only performer. The opener’s a bluesabilly item, Memphis-roots-of-Elvis-Presley style. Next comes a not unsentimental song, where his voice is Billy Eckstine-ish, almost soupy. “You Rascal, You” is on the hillbilly side, “Just Before Dawn” demonstrates that where (on a recent reissue) you can hear Junior Wells tell an audience he can’t do the Dean Martin-Perry Como stuff, Bob Margolin could do that stuff extremely well. On Muddy Waters’ relatively obscure “Lonely Man Blues” the singing’s smooth, and on Margolin’s own “She and the Devil”, the voice almost creates a culture-clash with the impeccable acoustic guitar work, using the slide which is plied with great skill elsewhere on this set, and aptly on the deliberately overamplified “Baby, Baby, Baby”, and a version of “Floyd’s Guitar Blues” which alternates between echoes of Texas Swing and Elmore James; (I’d always thought the tune’s deviser, Floyd Smith with the Andy Kirk big band, played a normal electric guitar laid flat, rather than the lap steel guitar Margolin mentions). There’s also a lament for “Colleen” Bob Margolin’s border collie, long lines which once hung bags of money round Peter “Albatross” Green’s neck. He duets well with himself. Maybe his echoes of Eckstine and attachment to hearth and home sound more sentimental to a European than to most Americans.

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