Friday, October 20, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Eleven

When I started listening to the blues back in the mid 80's, one of the artists that really got me fired up was Luther Allison.  He played the blues, sure enough, but he also had the soulful vocal style and the rock-edged guitar that was sort of the connecting factor for me at the time.  I had really gotten into rock and soul a few years before, but the blues sort of combined those two styles ideally to me.  When I first heard Luther Allison, that was the Great Connector......the act that really sealed the blues deal for me.

Of course, at the time, there wasn't a lot of product available of Allison's that I was aware of.  In the early 70's, he's actually been signed to Motown Records, where he recorded three albums, but they had been unavailable for years.  Having moved to Europe in the mid 70's, he recorded regularly for the German label Ruf, but at the time not many of those sets were making it to my neck of the woods.  There was a release on Blind Pig Records (Serious), and later I found his release on Delmark (Love Me Mama), but that was about it until he signed with Alligator Records, which really allowed his career to blossom.  Always popular in Europe (a big reason why he'd relocated years earlier), the Alligator releases (Soul Fixin' Man, Blue Streak, and Reckless) really opened a lot of American eyes and ears to what they'd been missing.

Just as all that happened for Allison, it abruptly ended.  Diagnosed with lung and brain cancer in July of 1997, he passed away less than a month later.  At the time, I had just gotten access to the internet, and had discovered a few blues-related bulletin boards.  It was at one of those boards where I first read about his diagnosis and the fact that he had little time left.  It was like getting hit in the gut with a 2x4, and the year got even worse with the deaths of several other blues artists (Johnny Copeland, Fenton Robinson, Jimmy Witherspoon, Jimmy Rogers in 1997, Junior Wells and Junior Kimbrough in early 1998).  It was a tough several months for the blues.

In 1998, Alligator released a tribute album honoring their very first recording artist, Hound Dog Taylor.  A number of the label's artists and other popular blues artists at the time recorded several songs from Taylor's catalog.  Taylor's wild shows and showmanship were what inspired Alligator founder Bruce Iglauer to start his label, with Taylor serving as his introductory release.  Most of the artists who recorded the tribute acquitted themselves very well, but few captured Taylor's manic charm in a way that came close to the original.  Allison's version of the Dog's "Give Me Back My Wig," was the one that came the closest.  At the time I was putting together this set, I was really into Allison's slide guitar playing, which I've always thought was the most underrated part of his style.  There are lots of great Luther Allison songs that could be part of a mix CD, and "Give Me Back My Wig" was one of the best choices.

Your Blues Fix Mix CD (Volume One) to date......

Track 1:  "Cold Women With Warm Hearts," Magic Slim & the Teardrops
Track 2:  "Son of Juke," Billy Branch
Track 3:  "Feel Like Blowing My Horn," Robert Lockwood, Jr.
Track 4:  "Big Boy Now," Big Jack Johnson
Track 5:  "Blues Man," B.B. King
Track 6"  "Four Cars Running," Larry Garner
Track 7:  "Cadillac Blues," Johnnie Bassett & the Blues Insurgents
Track 8:  "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues," Skip James
Track 9:  "Double Trouble" (Live), Otis Rush
Track 10:  "She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride," Taj Mahal
Track 11:  "Give Me Back My Wig," Luther Allison

More from the Allison family next week.......

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