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29 March 2004

Various Artists, Rough Guide to Chicago Blues (World Music Network)
Having listened to this about a hundred times, there's no doubt there are too many good songs to even mention by name. From the opening shouts of Roosevelt Sykes and his boogie woogie thump and roll on piano, all the way to the very end, when Magic Sam electrifies the place with his harder-edged modern cover of the same tune, it's "Sweet Home Chicago". In assembling tracks for this introduction to Chicago blues, Rough Guide compilers skip the more obvious success stories preferring to let the darker edges of the blues seep in. As they immediately do once the baritone saxes start moaning and Nolan Struck reaches out with his weird falsetto-tinged singing on "Strange Feeling". Or when Valerie Wellington squalls her way down "Bad Avenue", which has a guitar break that's so hard-edged and just sounds so hard, it just might break your heart. Seems everyone's here on this disc as they were back then (Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, James Cotton, Charles Musselwhite, and... who isn't here on these 21 songs?) The best surprise was seeing John Littlejohn finally getting some props. Hearing him cry his way through "What in the World" just once will send people clawing through the bins to find his one and only album. Chris Strachwitz recorded Littlejohn in the mid-'60s on the personal recommendation of Buddy Guy. Buddy Guy was so-oo-oo right.
      — Barbara Flaska

.: posted by Editor 5:35 PM