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Various Artists

Chicago Blues: A Living History

Raisin’ Music

Run Time: Disc I (34:44) Disc 2 (40:05)

U.S. Release Date April 21, 2009

Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell, Carlos Johnson, Billy Flynn, Johnny Iguana, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, and Mike Avery. It reads like the roster to a Chicago Blues All Star team. Well, that’s what you get in this jam-packed, exquisite package of a retrospective of the Windy City’s rich blues history and tradition when placed in the hands of its deepest contemporary translators. These guys are some of the top dogs in the Chicago Blues and its undeniable when these guys take on twenty-one nuggets of the tradition’s long list of great songs.

From Sonny Boy Williamson I’s “My Little Machine” in 1940 to Buddy Guy’s “Damn Right I Got the Blues” in 1991, this set covers fifty years of some of the greatest and most identifiable blues artists that have ever struck a note in the Windy City. Held in a lavish, picture laden digipak and accompanied with a booklet that gives a nice overview of each artists covered and each living artist covering the music; this has undeniably jumped to the forefront of one of my favorite packages in the last five years.

Billy Boy Arnold does a return to John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson on “My Little Machine.” Billy Boy’s tribute last year on Electro-Fi was a superb tribute and this is yet another dead-on performance by the Chicago native. Lurrie Bell and Carlos Johnson give an explosive and very truthful reading of Buddy Guy’s “Damn Right I Got the Blues.” John Primer has never sounded better on “Sugar Sweet.” Lurrie Bell also turns in a rugged Elmore James cover of “I Believe.” It’s just one slam dunk after another.

If this album doesn’t get nominated for some kind of award or get some special recognition and if everyone out there doesn’t buy this album, well there’s something wrong. I was completely blown away. This is a one of a kind tribute album that delivers both the emotional punch and fervor of the originals. Chicago blues is living and continues to in the hands of the greats such as these.

Reviewed by Ben "the Harpman" Cox. Visit his website Juke Joint Soul

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