Friday, May 30, 2014

Classic Live Blues - The Antone's Tenth Anniversary Anthology

I've rambled on incessantly over the past few years about my early days as a blues fan.  I wouldn't probably do so, but I figure that most people who read this blog have similar stories to mine and can relate to what I'm talking about.....starting out listening to some great music....maybe by accident......from a favorite artist, then backtracking to see where the music originated and finding out that you like the original version as much or more than what led you to it.

As I've said before several times, one of the best things that I did was send off for a mail-order catalog to Roundup Records in Cambridge, MA.  I was expecting a little 6 to 8-page, fold-up catalog with the piece of circular tape holding the pages together.  Instead, I got one of those cardboard envelopes containing a big 100-page catalog with a supplemental catalog and additional sheets included, plus a copy of their monthly catalog, which gave detailed reviews of new and old albums of various genres.....not just blues, but also jazz, roots, country, rock & roll, and gospel.  For a new fan with tons of questions about his newest musical interests, Roundup Records was a major find, and I took advantage of it quickly and repeatedly, ordering lots of old and new music over an extended period.

Clifford Antone
One of the recordings that I ordered, almost as an afterthought, turned out to be one of my all-time favorites.  It came from the Austin-based Antone's Records and Tapes label.  Antone's was owned by Clifford Antone, who also owned the famous blues club of the same name, which was one of the first music clubs on Austin's 6th Street, played a huge role in the beginnings of the city's now-burgeoning music scene.  When the club opened in 1975, it became a second home to numerous blues legends like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, James Cotton, Hubert Sumlin, Sunnyland Slim, Jimmy Rogers, Luther Tucker, Snooky Pryor, Matt "Guitar" Murphy, Buddy Guy, Pinetop Perkins, Albert Collins, Eddie Taylor, Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan, and many many others.

The album that I picked up was called Antone's Tenth Anniversary Anthology: Vol. 1.  The original set collected ten performances (later expanded to thirteen on the CD edition) taken from the club's Tenth Anniversary celebration in July of 1985 from a veritable who's who of blues artists.  At the time, I only knew a few of them.....Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Otis Rush, and Albert Collins......but, boy, did I get my ears full with this collection.  It was loaded with classic songs.

I have an iPod Shuffle that I use when I exercise or work in the yard.  One thing about the Shuffle is that you are limited in the number of songs that you can have on it due to space my case about 440+ tunes, so the songs I have on it are some of my favorite blues tracks of all time.  Five tracks from this CD are on my iPod Shuffle.

Snooky Pryor

The opener, "How's You Learn To Shake It Like That," is from harmonica player Snooky Pryor.  Pryor was one of the first, if not the first, harmonica player to play amplified, cupping a small mic in his hands with the harmonica.  What a wild and raucous eight minutes that must have been in person.  Pryor certainly knew how to work an audience and he's backed by Eddie Taylor, Derek O'Brien, and Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Bob Strogher on bass, Sunnyland Slim on piano (who also gets his own track, "Built Up From The Ground,"  with the same band a little bit later), and Timothy Taylor on drums.

James Cotton

Guitarist Taylor takes the mic for "If You Don't Want Me Baby," with the same band, and later he does his hit, "Bad Boy," which adds Luther Tucker and Hubert Sumlin on guitar.  This track wasn't on the original album and it's a mystery why it wasn't.  James Cotton reprises his tune, "Cotton Crop Blues," a few tracks later.  This is one of his classic tunes that he's done ever since he recorded for Sun Records in the 50's and he knows it inside and out.  He's backed by Rogers and Tucker on guitar, with Pinetop Perkins on piano, Strogher on bass, and Ted Harvey on drums.  Cotton also shines on a cover of his former band leader Muddy Waters' "Sad Letter Blues."

Albert Collins

There's also a splendid track from Albert Collins, who covers the T-Bone Walker classic, "Cold Cold Feeling," where he shares guitar duties with Jimmie Vaughan, who was burning up the charts at the time with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and enjoys keyboard support from Denny Freeman and the vastly underrated Mel Brown.  Rogers also plays his old favorite, "Walkin' By Myself," although an abbreviated version.

Buddy Guy

As good as the first half of the disc was, it pales in comparison to the second half, which really gets kicked off by Buddy Guy, who absolutes burns through the Elmore James tune, "Look On Yonders Wall," which segues into Guitar Slim's standard, "Things I Used To Do."  As mentioned here previously, Slim was a major influence on Guy as a musician and a performer and this is a masterful performance from Guy, with just the right mix of fire and intensity.

Pinetop Perkins

Pinetop Perkins does a rousing version of the old favorite, "Caldonia," with backing from Cotton, Tucker, and Rogers.  This is one of my all-time favorite blues tracks.  I think I listen to it at least once a week.  Perkins' easy rapport with the audience and the musicians is always fun to hear and these guys work really well together.

Otis Rush

I think I've discussed Otis Rush's version of "Double Trouble" on this disc previously, but to me, it's the absolutely definitive version of this song.  Rush is inspired on vocals and guitar and the only thing wrong is that this version is not long enough, clocking in at under four minutes.  That's okay, though.  It's the best 3:46 you will ever spend, if you're a blues fan.....or an Otis Rush fan.  If Rush ever gave a finer live performance on any song, I've yet to hear it.  Finally, Jimmy Rogers closes the disc with "You're Sweet," but it's sort of anti-climactic, given what came before it.

What's probably the most fun about this disc is the obvious enjoyment that the participants had while doing it.  You can really hear the pleasure they have in playing together.....some of them had been playing together for years.....and how receptive their audience was.  The late 70's and early 80's were a tough time for many blues artists because interest in the blues was at a very low point, so you can tell when they had an audience eager to hear them, they made the most of it.

When I made the conversion from cassettes to CDs in the late 90's, I knew that there were several albums I'd had on cassette that I wanted to repurchase on CD, and this was one of them.  When I finally was able to track it down, I was pleasantly surprised to see the three extra tracks added.

For blues fans old and new, this is a fantastic live set.  It offers a pretty impressive list of stars performing at their very best.  It's so good that it's almost like you are sitting in the audience.....the mark of a great live blues album.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Catching Up

Your humble correspondent is taking a few days to unwind and catch up with the family, so this will give all of you loyal readers an opportunity to go back through the FBF archives and see what you might have missed.  As always, Friday Blues Fix is glad to hear from each of you, so please feel free to comment on any of our previous posts if you feel led to do so.

Speaking of catching up, I did realize that I failed to acknowledge the 2014 BMA winners a few weeks ago.  Things were really hectic around the house over the past few weeks and I actually forgot about the awards until they were over.  I did post them on FBF's Facebook page, but didn't do so here, so here they are......the 2014 Blues Music Awards Winners!!!  I haven't gotten to hear all of the award winners yet, but there were a lot of new faces picking up trophies this year and that's always a good thing......keeping the blues alive.  Congratulations to all of the big winners.  For more info on the winning albums, you can just click on the links........even on vacation, I'm thinking of you, dear readers.

Acoustic Album: There’s a Time – Doug MacLeod

Acoustic Artist: Doug MacLeod

Album: Remembering Little Walter – Billy Boy Arnold, Charlie Musselwhite, Mark Hummel, Sugar Ray Norcia, James Harman

Traditional Blues Album: Remembering Little Walter – Billy Boy Arnold, Charlie Musselwhite, Mark Hummel, Sugar Ray Norcia, James Harman

B.B. King Entertainer: Buddy Guy

Band: Tedeschi Trucks Band

Rock Blues Album: Made Up Mind – Tedeschi Trucks Band

Contemporary Blues Female Artist: Susan Tedeschi

Best New Artist Debut: Daddy Told Me – Shawn Holt & the Teardrops

Contemporary Blues Album: Badlands – Trampled Under Foot

Instrumentalist-Bass: Danielle Schnebelen

Contemporary Blues Male Artist: Gary Clark Jr.

DVD: Ruf Records – Songs from the Road (Royal Southern Brotherhood)

Historical Album: Bear Family – TheSun Blues Box

Instrumentalist-Drums: Cedric Burnside

Instrumentalist-Guitar: Ronnie Earl

Instrumentalist-Harmonica: Charlie Musselwhite

Instrumentalist-Horn: Eddie Shaw

Koko Taylor Award (Traditional Blues Female Artist): Diunna Greenleaf

Pinetop Perkins Piano Player: Victor Wainwright

Song: ”Blues in My Soul” – Lurrie Bell

Soul Blues Album: Down in Louisiana – Bobby Rush

Soul Blues Female Artist: Irma Thomas

Soul Blues Male Artist: John Nemeth

Traditional Blues Male Artist: James Cotton

Friday, May 16, 2014

New Blues For You - Spring, 2014 Edition (Part 3)

This week, FBF takes a brief look at even more new releases that are out there or soon to be out there for your listening pleasure.  As always, more detailed reviews of these discs (and others) can be found in current or upcoming editions of the best blues review site out there, Blues Bytes. Here are nine more for you to be on the lookout for to get you through the hot summer months ahead.

Jimmy "Duck" Holmes/Terry "Harmonica" Bean - Twice As Hard (Broke & Hungry Records):   If you heard Holmes and Bean working together on the documentary, We Juke Up In Here, a couple of years ago, you probably thought that these guys might have a collaboration album in them.  Though both are fiercely independent and unique as solo artists, even playing in different styles (Holmes often in the soft and somber Bentonia style, Bean in the raw and raggedly exuberant Delta style), they mesh together really well, working effectively in each other's styles.  There's a mix of solo tracks from each and a few collaborative efforts, sometimes complemented by the drumming of Frank Vick.  Occasionally the duo brings back memories of a previous Bentonia-based guitar/harmonica pairing from a few years back...Jack Owens and Bud Spires.  There's plenty of good time blues to be heard here.  This is definitely worth your while if you're a fan of traditional Mississippi blues.  

Eden Brent - Jigsaw Heart (Yellow Dog Records):  For her first release since 2010, the talented Ms. Brent heads to Nashville, stomping ground of her producer, Colin Linden, who also produced her previous CD.  Linden adds some stellar guitar work to back Brent, who is at her absolute best on this release.  The Nashville influence is present on several tracks, but this is still an Eden Brent record, with flashes of the blues, jazz, country, and gospel.  She sounds fantastic and has written some songs that other artists will be clamoring to record themselves.  The best thing about her recordings is that she never stands in one place for long....she's always expanding her musical reach, while all the time retaining that special individual charm that makes her music so wonderful.  Good as she is already, she keeps getting better with each release.

John Mayall - A Special Life (Forty Below Records):  In November of last year, John Mayall turned EIGHTY.  Just wrap your mind around that for a moment.  The Godfather of British Blues has been at it for over fifty years now, having released his first album in 1964.  This release puts his total at well over 60.  As usual, the living legend sings and plays guitar, harmonica, and keyboards, and he's backed by his powerful band (guitarist Rocky Athas, bass player Greg Rzab, and drummer Jay Davenport), along with zydeco star C.J. Chenier.  The disc itself is a mix of covers of mostly familiar songs by Chenier, Sonny Landreth, Jimmy Rogers, Albert King, Eddie Taylor, and Jimmy McCracklin, and some pretty good original tunes written by Mayall and Rzab.  Mayall is widely known for who has played in his bands over the years (Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and many others), and sometimes his own achievements get overshadowed, which is too bad, because there's some fine releases to be heard, and this is one of them.  

Brent Johnson - Set The World On Fire (Justin Time):  Folks, this one is a scorcher!  Johnson plays guitar in New Orleans blues man Bryan Lee's band.  This is his first solo effort and I can assure you that if there's any justice in the world, it won't be his last.  Johnson painstakingly worked on this disc, writing and rewriting, working and reworking, recording and re-recording until he had it on disc like it was in his head.  The result is one of the best debut releases you'll hear.  He's a great guitarist, songwriter, and singer.  He also tackles a diverse set of cover tunes, too, including a masterful version of "As The Years Go Passing By," and a dynamite version of "The Hucklebuck."  Earl Hooker's version is my favorite, but Johnson's comes pretty close to topping it.  Did I mention that Alvin Youngblood Hart and Sonny Landreth make appearances, too?  Why haven't you bought this yet???

Ray Fuller and the Bluesrockers - Live At Buddy Guy's Legends Chicago (Azuretone Records):  Fuller and the Bluesrockers have been playing the blues for 40 years, becoming mainstays on the Ohio blues circuit and currently serving as Saturday night headliners at Buddy Guy's Legends, which is where this outstanding set was recorded (with Mr. Guy in attendance to boot).  If you're not familiar with Fuller's specialty, you'll find out soon enough....his positively electrifying slide guitar.  This is a very well-balanced set of covers and originals that covers a wide range of blues genres, mostly focusing on the Chicago variety, of course, with covers of Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Otis Rush, and Eddie Clearwater.  Fuller is also a great vocalist, and the Bluesrockers more than earn their moniker, making this live set a keeper for blues-rock fans.

Bad Brad & The Fat Cats - Take A Walk With Me:  Bad Brad Stivers has been playing guitar since he was ten, taking in the sounds of guitarists like B.B. King, SRV, Robin Trower, and Rory Gallagher.  He and the Fat Cats are becoming a top draw on the Colorado blues scene and this release, their second, shows why.  Stivers sounds like a mix of John Fogerty and Omar Dykes with his gravelly croon, and he and the band are very versatile, whether working through Elmore James-like slide fests, Hookeresque Delta boogies, a touch of zydeco and Crescent City R&B, and even Texas shuffles.  This is a top notch release that is worth searching for.

Shane Dwight - This House (Eclecto Groove):  Singer/songwriter/guitarist Dwight has always walked a thin line between the blues and country music on his releases.  His latest leans more toward the blues and R&B and that's perfectly all right because there's plenty to offer fans of the blues, rock, and country.  Guest vocalist Bekka Bramlett, who also appeared on his previous release, A Hundred White Lies, features more prominently on a couple of tracks, a duet with Dwight and a solo vocal of her very own.  Another factor in this CD's success are the keyboards of producer Kevin McKendree.    As much as I dug A Hundred White Lies, I believe I like this one even more.  This is fine music from a real talent who deserves to be heard by a bigger audience.

Carmen Grillo - A Different World (Big Surprise Music):  Anybody out there remember Tower of Power?  Well, Grillo worked and recorded with the band through most of the 1980's, serving as singer, guitarist, and songwriter.  Before that, he worked with Rita Coolidge, Bill Champlin, and Chicago.  A Different World is his second solo effort, and it's a great mix of blues, R&B, funk, and jazz, very similar to his Tower of Power days with horns aplenty driving most of these songs.  Grillo is a great guitarist (as evidenced by four exciting and diverse instrumentals) and singer, and he penned most of the songs, though a cover of Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "A Real Mother For Ya" is a standout.  Fans of the classic 70's and 80's R&B-based blues and jazz sounds of T.O.P. will love this one.

Giles Corey's Stoned Soul (Delmark Records):  If you're a fan of the Chicago-based Mississippi Heat, you're probably familiar with Corey's guitar work.  He's also played with a veritable who's who of Chicago's finest blues artists over his 20-plus-year career.  Corey's debut release for Delmark ain't your daddy's typical Chicago blues release...there's plenty of powerhouse guitar work and it's definitely a modern take on the classic Windy City sounds, mixing healthy doses of rock, soul, and funk.  Further proof that this has a modern bent are a couple of the cover tunes, songs from Cedric Burnside and Gary Clark, Jr.  You've probably heard me talk about "Brave New Blues" before.....this one fits the description to a tee.

Friday, May 9, 2014

My Favorite Things - Sweet Home Chicago

One of my favorite blues collections has to be Delmark's Sweet Home Chicago.  It sometimes gets lost in the shuffle among a few of the other Chicago blues anthologies, like Alligator's Living Chicago Blues series and Vanguard's Chicago/The Blues/Today! series, but to me, the music is just as good and focuses on some of the movers and shakers of the Windy City's West Side blues scene of the mid to late 60's.  Though it's only a little over 30 minutes long, for blues fans it's a well-spent half hour featuring some great early music from several artists who have become legendary as time passed.

Luther Allison

Sweet Home Chicago included some of Luther Allison's earliest recordings, done in March of 1967.  He would record Love Me Mama for Delmark in 1968, then he rocketed to attention by a series of amazing shows at the Ann Arbor Blues Festivals from 1969 through 1971.  He then become one of an exclusive group of blues artists to sign with Motown Records in the early 70's.  Backing Allison on his two sides were his regular bass player, Big Mojo Elem (who also contributed a pair of songs to the set), drummer S.P. Leary, Odie Payne, Jr., who was one of the city's premier drummers, on piano, and Fred Roulette on Hawaiian steel guitar.
Fred Roulette

Big Mojo Elem

Both Allison's and Elem's tracks are impressive.....each man brings passionate vocals into the mix and Allison's guitar is as sharp and fierce as it would be in later years.  I really like Payne's delicate piano work on Allison's "Gotta Move On Up," along with Roulette's tasty steel guitar.  The two Allison sides kick off the disc and set the bar really high.  Elem ably handles the slow blues "Move On Out of Town."  He played with Louis and David Myers in the 50's before joining Freddy King's band.  Allison eventually inherited King's band in the early 60's and Elem was still backing Allison in the late 60's, but showed that he was pretty capable of fronting a band himself, which he did to from time to time, releasing a few albums.

Louis Myers

The aforementioned Louis Myers also appears on a couple of tracks, recorded in the spring of 1968, playing harmonica with backing from Magic Sam on guitar, Mac Thompson on bass, and Payne on drums.  Myers was primarily known for his years of playing guitar with Junior Wells, Little Walter, and in his own band, The Aces, with his brother David and drummer Fred Below, which backed Little Walter for many years.  Myers' contributes a torrid instrumental, "Top of the Harp," and the classic "That's All Right."

Magic Sam and Eddie Shaw

Magic Sam also has four of his own tracks on Sweet Home Chicago, with tenor sax man Eddie Shaw, Thompson, and Robert Richey on drums.  At this point, Sam had not recorded in several years and was somewhat frustrated with the lack of progress he had made as a blues artist.  When presented with the opportunity to record, he jumped at the chance and his sides, two vocals and two instrumentals, are particularly inspired.  Sam would soon release West Side Soul, the quintessential West Side blues album, and Black Magic, every bit its equal, over the next couple of years.  Both of Sam's vocal tracks, including the ominous "That's Why I'm Crying," really stand out.  You can really tell that he intended to make the most of this recording opportunity.

Closing the disc is Leo (Lucky Lopez) Evans, an Eastabuchie, MS native, who moved up north to Milwaukee with his family when he was young, joining a band and touring the southern U.S. frequently until he settled in Chicago in the mid 60's and backed Howlin' Wolf, along with many other Windy City artists.  Though he was a good singer and guitarist, as evidenced by his track here (backed by the Jazz Prophets), he never really caught a break, but he did record several albums for labels overseas.

Sadly, most of the artists involved in the making of Sweet Home Chicago have passed away, including Magic Sam, Allison, Myers, Evans, Payne, Elem, Leary, and Below.  Eddie Shaw and Fred Roulette are still with us though, and still performing on a regular basis.

Although the previously mentioned collections from Vanguard and Alligator are usually the first that come to mind when discussing Chicago Blues, Sweet Home Chicago is just as essential because it captures several young artists in their early stages of development and showed that great things were in store for blues fans.

Friday, May 2, 2014


Clarence Hollimon

When I started listening to the blues in the mid 80's, I had a pretty substantial learning curve.  I really wasn't familiar with any blues artists other than the ones I'd heard or seen on TV back then, and that was limited to B.B. King and maybe Muddy Waters.....two very formidable artists, but certainly not the whole story by any means.  Of course, I also listened to the Blues Brothers, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and others, but my range of pure blues knowledge was limited to those guys and any influences that they cited in interviews I happened to read.

As I began picking up the occasional blues recording at local record stores and via mail order (Thank you, Roundup Records and Downhome Music), I was able to close the gaps pretty quickly, mixing a few old recordings with some new ones.  What was interesting about the new recordings was that many of the musicians playing on them also played on a number of the older recordings I was picking up.

(L to R): Roy Gaines, Grady Gaines, Clarence Hollimon

One such example was one of my favorite Black Top Records releases, from Grady Gaines and the Texas Upsetters (Full Gain).  On the cover were three artists I had never heard of......Roy Gaines, Grady Gaines, and a guitarist named Clarence Hollimon.  I really dug Hollimon's guitar work.  He didn't overplay or overwhelm artists he was backing.  His solos were crisp, economical, always complementary.  He was as good playing jazz guitar as he was playing the blues, and despite his small and wiry stature (which probably earned him his nickname, "Gristle," also the title for one of his great instrumental tracks) and understated manner and style, his playing really stood out in a field of giants.

Over Hollimon's lengthy career, he played with Bobby "Blue" Bland, Junior Parker, O.V. Wright, Charles Brown, Joe Hinton, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Rogers, the original Jazz Crusaders, and numerous other artists dating back to 1954, when he dropped out of high school to play guitar with the Bill Harvey Orchestra.  While with Harvey, he backed the likes of Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and Big Mama Thornton on road tours.  This led to his tenure with Duke and Peacock Records (1957 - 1962) in Houston as a session guitarist.  During that period, he played behind Bland, Parker, Wright, and many other soul, blues, and gospel artists.

Although I had listened to some of Hollimon's Black Top recordings by this time, with Gaines and James "Thunderbird" Davis, I wasn't aware of his earlier work with Duke and Peacock, but some of these tracks, especially Bland's "You Got Me Where You Want Me," really grabbed me when I first heard them and when I was able to find out who was playing that guitar, I discovered that it was Hollimon.  Even though it was a great fit at the time it was recorded, you could hear that it was definitely a more modern approach, too.  Hollimon figured that he played on about 90% of Bland's recordings between 1957 and 1962.

Hollimon left Duke/Peacock in the early 60's, moving to New York City to work for Scepter Records briefly, backing Dionne Warwick, Maxine Brown, and others for a few years.  He returned to Houston and worked for years playing guitar (not always blues) for the local private party circuit, playing with a singer named Millie Brown.  He also battled substance abuse during the 70's, which curtailed his career for a time, but was able to rebound in the early 80's.

Clarence Hollimon and Carol Fran

In 1983, Hollimon married Carol Fran, a singer who recorded in the 60's for Excello Records.  Even though Hollimon and Fran had known each other since the 50's, courting briefly while touring together, but eventually they parted ways.  They had not seen each other for many years before their paths crossed again in 1982.  They married the next year and the partnership, Fran & Hollimon, was born.  By the late 80's, Hollimon was recording with Black Top, first as a session guitarist, then with Fran, who he affectionately called "Blabs, teaming on three releases for Black Top, as part of the Gulf Coast Blues Volume 1 anthology, and on a pair of their own releases, Soul Sensation and See There!

Carol Fran
Fran had been a fixture on the south Louisiana music scene.  She actually preceded Long John Hunter at the infamous Lobby Bar in Juarez, Mexico in the 50's.  In addition to her four singles for Excello, plus work for Lyric, Port, and Roulette Records during the 60's, she also toured with Guitar Slim, Joe Tex, and was a regular performer at the Dew Drop Inn in New Orleans, which is where she met her future husband in the late 50's.

Fran and Hollimon had incredible chemistry, like they had been playing together for decades.  Fran's big sassy vocals were the perfect match for Hollimon's understated picking.  The first time I heard them together was on the Gulf Coast Blues compilation, where they were featured on a pair of tracks, including a remake of one of Fran's Excello sides, "Emmitt Lee," one of the best songs on the disc.  Fran's passionate vocal and Hollimon's smoldering lead make this one a standout.

Hot on the heels of Gulf Coast Blues came the duo's debut recording for Black Top, Soul Sensation.  I wrote about this album on a previous Black Top post, and it is one of the most enjoyable blues discs of the 90's.  Both of them were just on fire for this set, like they were making up for lost time.  "Gristle" was one of Hollimon's standout, displaying his amazing versatility, and "I Needs To Be Be'd With" showed just how well they worked together.  Fran just delivered an awesome, playful but sexy vocal and Hollimon just burns it up.  Hollimon even took a turn behind the mic for "Box With The Hole In The Middle," a cool autobiographical track that sums him up pretty well.

Perhaps my favorite Hollimon moment on this disc is an amazing instrumental that was dedicated to his wife.  "Blues For Carol" sums up everything that was great about Hollimon's style.  He says more in this nearly four minute track than many guitarists say in an entire career.....a really inspired tune.  Of course, the inspiration could have been the subject of the title....the love of his life.  Whatever, it's some mighty fine blues guitar.

Fran and Hollimon would go on to release two more albums, the excellent follow-up for Black Top, See There!, and a later release for JSP Records in the U.K., It's About Time.  Hollimon also continue to play on other albums, notably the Grady Gaines' second Black Top release, Horn of Plenty, and some standout work on Jimmy "Mr. T99" Nelson's 1999 comeback disc for Bullseye Blues, Rockin' and Shoutin' The Blues.

Hollimon died in Houston on April 23rd, Easter Sunday, 2000, not long after It's About Time was released.  He was only 62 years old and his death left a huge void in the Houston music scene.  His death left a huge void in the Houston music scene.  Carol Fran continued to record and perform following his death, but suffered a stroke in 2007.  She has rebounded somewhat from this setback, even appearing on the Louisiana Swamp Stomp benefit CD that came out in 2010.

Clarence Hollimon may be the best guitarist you've never heard of.  If you're a blues fan, the odds are very good that you have heard him though.  His nearly fifty-year body of work is blues guitar at its finest.