Thursday, June 20, 2013

Junior Wells - Blues Hit Big Town

Junior Wells came to Chicago as a teen, started playing in the local bars with local group the Aces, and when Little Walter left Muddy Waters' band for a solo career (to to capitalize on his instrumental hit "Juke"), Wells was drafted as his replacement. Walter informed the Aces of Wells' defection and ended up using them as his backing band! Confusing enough yet? Local music scenes apparently never really change - members drift back & forth between bands regularly then and now!

This CD is culled from a couple of different sessions, one using the Aces (they remained friends, as this was a year or so after Wells split from the group) - Louis Myers - guitar, Dave Myers - bass, Fred Below - drums (later to become a Chicago legend himself) - augmented by Johnnie Jones on piano and Elmore James on guitar! Other tracks have Muddy & his band - Otis Spann (piano), Willie Dixon (bass) and Odie Payne, Jr. (drums) - along with Louis Myers backing Junior.

Everything here is solid, 50's-era, Chicago-styled, harmonica-driven blues. Most are upbeat numbers (though there is some variety), giving good vehicles to Junior's rough-edged vocals and amp-fueled harp. Truthfully, this didn't connect with me 100% upon first listen - maybe the songs just aren't as strong as others or maybe it is the edge to Wells' voice - but as I listen more, I am really drawn in. Hot, passionate playing and the rawness in itself is attractive.

A good set of tunes that adds 4 previously unissued numbers, making it a attractive collection, especially for lovers of true Chicago blues!