Monday, August 08, 2005

Various Artists – Hastings Street Grease, Vol. 2 (Blue Suit, 2001)

Subtitled Detroit Blues is Alive! This collection focuses on the motor city’s finest bluesmen, including some famous names. Detroit is known today as a mecca of garage rock, giving birth to bands like the White Stripes and the Dirtbombs. But the city has always had a deep musical history in jazz and blues as well, with the blues scene kicking into high gear when John Lee Hooker moved to the city in the late 1940’s. Hooker’s imposing shadow looms large over this collection as well, with his longtime sideman Eddie Kirkland present on many cuts as well as other artists covering Hooker staples “I’m in the Mood” and “Boogie Chillun’” It’s too bad nobody chose to cover Hooker’s tune “The Motor City is Burnin’” which would have been a natural fit.

What makes this collection such a joy is that it’s an unadorned blast of raw unpretentious blues by performers who have been in the game for a long time and have no need to show off but let things flow naturally. Harmonica Shah may be the MVP of the disc, his cuts as a leader, “Have Mercy, Mr. Reed” and the nasty “Bring Me My Shotgun” have a rough and ready swagger and some killer Sonny Boy influenced harp. Detroit Piano Fats (great name!) provides a brief talking-blues history of the Hastings Street scene and of course, Eddie Kirkland throws down as well with some great guitar solos and a couple of nice tracks as a leader “There’s Got to Be Some Changes Made” and “Going Back to the Backwoods.” All in all this is a great primer on music for one of the world’s finest blues cities.

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