Thursday, December 24, 2009

Little Sonny - New King of the Blues Harmonica (Stax/Enterprise, 1970)

Little Sonny (aka Aaron Willis) grew up in Alabama, but came into his own as part of the fertile Detroit blues scene before finding a home with the famous Stax soul music label. On this album, he deftly mixes deep blues with soulful R&B with excellent results. It’s a pretty heavy burden to be called the "new king" of anything, let alone something as rich as the blues harmonica legacy, but he is up to the task. Little Sonny sings on a few tracks, and he has a fine voice, opening with the classic Jimmy Reed shuffle “Baby, What You Want Me to Do,” the band takes things at a nice easy gallop. “Don't Ask Me No Questions” has a Little Walter-ish feel, with Sonny making the strutting lyric his own. “Goin’ Down Slow” revisits some classic blues territory to good effect, with Sonny taking his time and delivering the vocal and harp with class and dignity. The remainder of the album consists of instrumentals featuring Little Sonny’s harmonica playing. While he never did quite ascend to the the level of king, he was quite a player as these performances demonstrate. Songs like “Eli’s Pork Chop” mix the down home blues with some soulful touches to good effect, with the organist in the band and occasional horn accompaniment move things along nicely. Blues fell on hard times for a while in the 1970‘s, with clubs closing and some of the legendary musicians falling ill and passing on. But Little Sonny was an example of the torch of the blues being passed on to a younger man, and on this album he held that torch high. New King of Blues Harmonica -

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