Famed for his incendiary harmonica playing, Junior Wells, went to the great gig in the sky in January 1998 – his legacy with artists such as Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters and Earl Hooker and his starring role (musically at least) in the film Blues Brothers, ensures he will be ever-present in the history of the blues.
Born in Memphis, Tennesse in 1934, Amos Wells Blackmore, Jr. he is acknowledged as one of the pioneers of the amplified blues-harp.He began his musical career in Chicago and, influenced by Little Walter he was the obvious choice to replace him in Muddy Waters band. Wells also recorded a string of independently released albums and singles including the absolute classic, Messin’ with the Kid.
What’s happened now is that some classic Wells songs have been updated by adding in instrumentation from some shining lights of today’s blues scene. This, in my opinion, is always fraught with danger as basically overdubbing on top of the original can seem and sound over-engineered and take the heart and soul out of the originals…this was done with Tommy Bolin’s superb Teaser album and in many cases (though not all) did nothing to make me want to listen to them over the originals. Mercifully, this one has succeeded and only added some subtle guitar additions but, importantly, the players haven’t overdone it and the guitar phrases are totally in keeping with the time, the atmosphere and the emotion…I particularly applaud Tyler Bryant on Messin’ With The Kid, Albert Castiglia on Baby scratch My back and especially Popa Chubby on You Don’t Care. In saying that, all of the ‘new’ participants do bring something extra to the Junior genius. The tracks are all well known to aficionados of Junior’s work so I’ll leave you to make up your own minds.
Too me, this is an admirable tribute to a great bluesman and, although sometimes the original vocals are fuzzy due, I guess to the source tapes, I think of it as listening to Junior’s live output with an array of guests adding extra colour to the blues menu. The true empathy of the contributors is revealed if you listen (as I did) to them back to back with the originals.
Bluesdoodles rating: A Wonderful addition to the blues collection to compliment the original output of the much missed Junior Wells.
1. Blues Hit Big Town/Colin James/Junior Wells
2. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl/Pat Travers/Sonny Boy Williamson I
3. Messin’ With The Kid/Tyler Bryant/Mel London
4. Baby, Scratch My Back/Albert Castiglia/Slim Harpo
5. Worried Life Blues/Mike Zito & James Montgomery/JA Estes
6. When The Cat’s Gone The Mice Play/Harvey Mandel/Dixon, Emerson
7. Lovey Dovey Lovey One/Eric Gales/Mel London
8. You Gotta Love Her With A Feeling/Kirk Fletcher/Little Walter
9. Two-Headed Woman/Guitar Shorty/Dixon, Weaver
10. Snatch It Back And Hold It/Joe Louis Walker/Junior Wells
11. You Don’t Care/Popa Chubby/Mel London
12. It’s A Man Down There/Bernard Allison/GL Crockett, Jack Daniels
13. Hoodoo Man Blues/Joe Louis Walker/Sonny Boy Williamson II