Friday, November 28, 2008

Willie "Big Eyes" Smith - Born In Arkansas (Big Eye, 2008)

Willie "Big Eyes" Smith leaves the drums to his son and confidently stands up as a front man on this fine album of old school Chicago blues. Smith leads a strong and tight band with Bob Stroger on bass, Barrelhouse Chuck on piano, Billy Flynn on guitar, Little Frank Krakowski on guitar and Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith on drums. The play the blues in the classic Chicago style of Smith's mentor Muddy Waters and his former collaborative project, the Legendary Blues Band. The group riffs on familiar themes of the blues that have been around since time immemorial, but there is always a fresh spin as the band makes the music its own. Smith was originally known as a drummer, but here he shows himself to be a fine singer and harmonica player, particularly on the chromatic harp feature "Dreamin'" where he paints a fine picture of drifting through a dusty and lonely landscape, possibly of his youth in Arkansas. The acoustic and back porch "Overcoat Mama" has a fine relaxed groove as well. But the meat of the disc is the straight up electric blues, played very effectively. "Money Talk" has a tough urban groove and strong guitar with some direct urban philosophy in it's lyrics. "World in an Uproar" keeps the thoughtful lyrics coming over a grinding organ and drums groove. This is timeless music made by a strong band with is led by a confident, veteran musician. The music here is never forced, and the solos have a story to them. This is the sound of substance triumphing over style, from the dirt roads of Arkansas to the city streets of Chicago, this is the blues.
Born in Arkansas -

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