Saturday, July 12, 2008

Earl Hooker - Blue Guitar (Paula, 1981)

Like many of the legends of the blues, guitarist Earl Hooker moved to Chicago in the post-war years from his birthplace of Mississippi. Earning a place for himself in the pantheon with his unique slide guitar and his aversion to singing, Hooker never quite earned the fame of some of his fellow Chicogans, but he was every bit their equal. This collection brings together the singles he cut in the early 1960's for the Age and Chief labels and he is backed by a shifting cast of keyboardists, bassists and drummers. There are a few tracks on this disc with guest vocalists, but the real gems are the instrumentals, two and a half minute miracles of taste, beat and tempo. With tracks named "Universal Rock", "Rockin' With the Kid", and Rockin' Wild", it's clear that Hooker's music was being marketed to the emerging rock 'n' roll market (as the eye-roll inducing spoken word on "Apache War Dance" makes clear) but regardless, it is stellar electric blues. "Blues in D Natural" and "The Leading Brand" show the group's prowess at some differing tempos. This is a very good album, and a fine introduction to Hooker's unique and inspiring music.

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