[2 March 2008]
Little Arthur Duncan experienced, first-hand, the country-bluesman’s journey from the Delta to the bright lights of Chicago back when Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters began their West Side reign. He was brought up on the same Woodburn Plantation in Mississippi as B.B. King and during the 1950’s, lived downstairs from the greatest harmonica player of them all, Little Walter, who became mentor and friend to the young singer/harpist. But Duncan is no mere living link to the heyday of Chicago blues as this passionate showcase performance at Rosa’s Blues Lounge proves. Backed by his ace band of veteran players, the Backscratchers, the journeyman performer delves deep down in his soul and delivers a gritty, solid set mixing traditional blues staples, among them Jimmy Reed’s “Pretty Thing” as well as a couple of Willie Dixon numbers, “Little Red Rooster” and a blinding take on “Young Fashioned Ways”, with a handful of originals. It is one of the latter, “Trackmarks”, a raw piece of social realism that finds Duncan’s blues holler cracked with emotion as he sings “My baby got track marks / From her head to her knees”, which provides the album’s highlight. This is drinkin’ from the source—hell, yeah!