[6 August 2013]
Chicago’s Tail Dragger performs blues in its purest form: an unadulterated, unapologetic mix of storming piano, honking harp, twanging guitars and 12-bar progressions. Floating above it all is Tail Dragger’s voice, a gritty, raspy instrument that cajoles, preaches, mourns and cracks wise in turn. Stop Lyin’ is a collection of tracks from the early 1980s, when the rough-edged Chicago style epitomized by Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and Albert Collins was in full force.
Dragger is no guitar maestro, so he has to rely on his full-throated, Howlin’ Wolf-inspired vocals on such tracks as the stomping opener “So Ezee” and the toe-tapping “Alabama Bound”. This is uptempo, good-time music with a leavening of everyday common sense, but slower tracks are in evidence too, such as “My Head Is Bald”, “Ain’t Gonna Cry No Mo” and the powerful “Please Mr. Jailer”. Tail Dragger might not be a household name outside of blues circles, but this early recording reveals an artist already in command of his material decades ago. A 16-minute radio interview is a bit of a throwaway—nobody is likely to sit through it more than once—but the tunes are solid, and Dragger’s urgent, voice-cracking moan is worth a listen.