Friday, December 14, 2007

Little Walter – His Best – the Chess 50th Anniversary Collection

Considered by some as the Jimi Hendrix of the harmonica (so I’m told), Little Walter has had a long, illustrious career backing other legends as well having his own solo career. Credited as being the first person to blow harp through its own amplifier (as opposed to the PA system) – or at least popularizing this method – he changed the sound of blues harmonica forever to the wild wail that we know today.

I understand that he started to play professionally around the age of 13, when he left home, and wandered from his birthplace in the south throughout the mid-west sitting in with different musicians before settling in Chicago. He first came to prominence in Muddy Waters’ terrific band which led to his own solo outings.

His first single, 1952’s “Juke” was recorded at the end of a Waters’ session and included Waters and Jimmy Rogers on guitars and Elga Edmonds on drums and went straight to #1 on the R’n’B charts. He proved himself to be a superior songwriter, but still covered other people’s tunes, as well, such as his hits with Willie Dixon’s “My Babe” (certainly one of Little Walter’s best known songs) and Stan Lewis’ “Boom Boom Out Goes the Light”.

While not an outstanding vocalist, he still has a nice sound and plenty of energy and enthusiasm. Of course, his harp playing is stellar, whether on quiet blues like “Last Night” or upbeat jump like “Off the Wall”, “Too Late” or the aptly titled “Roller Coaster”. His songwriting is highlighted by such numbers as the swinging “Hate To See You Go”, “Confessin’ the Blues”, and the oft-covered “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”.

Another super collector from another true original – definitely recommended for those who love blues and blues harmonica!