Excellent set, exemplary superior sampler: not tracks from other CDs on Delmark’s list, but tapes from the June 2005 performance at Delmark HQ, latest to date of an annual series of gigs by Delmark artists.
This is also excellent showcase for Michael Coleman, whose little band supports most performances here, Coleman’s outstanding guitar distinguishing a track by Little Arthur Duncan, who plays excellent harmonica but isn’t in good voice. Having sounded something like non-slide Elmore James/Eddie Taylor with Duncan, Coleman is more on a B.B. King or jazzy kick accompanying his own singing of Elmore James’s “The Sky Is Crying”. Lurrie Bell does the guitar business a la Buddy Guy on a B.B. King and then a Lowell Fulson number, singing well but maybe with a cold. Steve Freund replaces Bell on guitar for Willie Kent’s “Something New”, Kent’s bass replacing Dave Wood’s. Freund’s guitar makes this track. Coleman is back, with Wood, for Bonnie Lee, who doesn’t necessarily sing better than Bell, but is in decent voice matching her competence.
Steve Freund surely sounds no worse for having Bobby Sellers on drums in the Coleman group (John Chorney on organ is the last member to be named, discrete and effective behind Freund’s guitar fireworks: but Freund had to be good to play between sets of Coleman). Zora Young pays due tribute to Bob Koester, the company’s founder, and to Steve Wagner, the producer, for his way of “getting the best out of people in the studio”. Chorney’s accompaniment purrs nicely, filling unobtrusively as Coleman comes up with more ideas.
Steve Behr seems, unfortunately, to have to make do with an electric piano for his piano solo in “Memories of Albert Ammons”, unable to play with full force and thus lacking ring and continuity. A bit nerve-wracking to have to turn out a boogie woogie solo amid all the electric guitar fireworks. Shirley Johnson delivers a hammy spoken prologue to a soul-ish complaint about a man who doesn’t so much think the grass on the other side of the fence greener… he waters it to the exclusion of his own.
Dave Waldman plays admirable harmonica, Bell especially good guitar, and Chorney piano on the Howlin’ Wolf growl-alike Tail Dragger’s very slow “Be Careful”, followed by a nice solo piano and vocal performance by Aaron Moore, sounding somewhere between early Eddie Boyd and Sunnyland Slim. Coleman rounds things off with a long guitar blues feature, and some verses of “You’re Going to Miss Me”. Sorry I will, if he’s at the 2006 Blues Brunch. I can’t be there, but I’m glad I didn’t miss this seriously interesting CD. Don’t underestimate it.