Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Elmore James/John Brim - Whose Muddy Shoes

It always astonishes me when I discover certain albums that I have not talked about, especially when I got them at the same time as others that I have ranted about. I can only assume that my life was crazy - not an unrealistic assumption - and it just slipped my mind. This Chess release is, obviously, one of these that I can't understand, as it is a fave acquisition and an amazing split album.

Elmore James is, of course, the electric slide guitar master who propelled Robert Johnson's "Dust My Broom" into a hit single. John Brim is much less well known, although no less talented, and would probably have remained an obscure footnote in Chicago blues if Van Halen hadn't recorded his "Ice Cream Man" on their first album.

This release alternates between to the two artists, opening with the above-mentioned swingin' "Ice Cream Man" (with backbeat provided by Brim's wife, Grace), followed by James' sax-driven deep blues title cut, his boppin' dance number "Madison Blues" and a swampy, slower blues in "I See My Baby". Brim returns with a star-studded session including Little Walter, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Willie Dixon and Fred Below for the upbeat groove of "You Got Me" - can't see any reason why this didn't connect with people - Brim's fine vocal delivery combined with this amazing backing band provides an excellent number.

Back to the much more prolific Elmore for another cool, slow blues in "My Best Friend", which shows off his non-slide guitar talents, along with his heartfelt slow-slider, "The Sun Is Shining". John gives us a sad Yuletide tune in "Lifetime Baby" that nonetheless includes fine guitar work interspersed with James Dalton's hip harmonica, back to Elmore for the bouncin', "Dust My Broom"-like "Talk To Me Baby", Brim returns with Little Walter's band for "Rattlesnake", a variation on "Hound Dog" (close enough that it wasn't released for fear of legal reprisals), and the great jumpin' r'n'b of "Be Careful What You Do" that J. Geils Band covered to great effect on their Hotline album.

Elmore gives a very different, slowed down reading of "Dust My Broom" (which he recorded numerous times - love the guitar'n'sax interplay), more jump'n'jive in the T-Bone Walker-like instrumental "Tool Bag Boogie", back to Brim's final offering of the Muddy Waters-ish "Tough Times" (with Eddie Taylor playing some fab guitar) and the whole sheebang closes with James' iconic sax'n'slide take on T-Bone's "Stormy Monday".

This is an excellent split-CD - two great artists and probably one of the only places to find all 6 of Brim's sides on CD. Get it if you can find it!