Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sonny Boy Williamson II - His Best (Chess, 1997)

Blues singer and harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson had already had quite a life and career before he joined up with Chess Records in Chicago in the late 1950's. Rice Miller had appropriated his stage name from the earlier Sonny Boy, John Lee Williamson, who was himself a legendary bluesman murdered well before his time. SBWII was a wily sharp tonged raconteur who made some wonderful and influential music for Chess, and his most well known songs are on this one disc collection. Some of the tracks on this collection deal frankly with the violence that was part of day to day life. The unnervingly brilliant "Love in Vain" states that if you "whup her when she need it, the judge will not let you explain" because the woman "is the glory of her man." Sonny Boy keeps it up with the boasting "Your Funeral and My Trial" and tales of urban gossip in "Don't Start Me To Talkin.'" Sonny Boy Williams on plays some mean harmonica throughout this compilation, but like the best blues musicians, he uses his instrument judiciously, to punctuate his vocals, or to make wry commentary on the music and life around him. One of the most unique characters in the blues, his music deserves to be savored.

Send comments to: Tim