various artists,
Bar Room Blues
(Telarc, 2004)

I'm not a drinker, but you don't have to be one to enjoy this 12-track program culled from the what Telarc considers the best drinking songs in its catalogue.

Alcohol always has been the solace of the poor and a standard theme in the blues repertoire -- right up there with cheatin' women, nasty men and the lack of money to make things better.

Close your eyes while listening to these 12 tracks and you could be in a juke joint. You can smell the booze. There's smoke in the air, sticky floors underfoot, body heat all around you as couples shuffle to the music and sounds, sounds as sweet and mournful as life ever gets to be. There's music here that will make you laugh, some that might make you want to cry and all of it rich with soulful emotion.

Best of all, if you like the blues, there's variety here. And, if it's a new musical experience, this album is a good introduction to the genre. To quote the album cover, the music in this collection is "poured and served by a cadre of top blues artists."

You'll find people like that harmonic legend, Charlie Musselwhite, in the mellow "Cold Grey Light of Dawn" and Doug Wainoris on vocal and guitar in "If the Sea Was Whiskey," a selection from a tribute to composer Willie Dixon. Then there's Bob Margolin, who honed his hot guitar style at the side of Muddy Waters, backed up here by the likes of Carey Bell and Mookie Brill on harmonica and the incomparable Pinetop Perkins on "My New Baby Owns a Whiskey Store."

You'll find the inventive, funky rhythms of Kenny Neal crying "Whiskey Tears" and the hardcore Chicago blues hot licks guitar style of Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson in "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On." Tab Benoit, who proves you don't have to be black to be a blues-man, has a raspy voiced traditional solo, "I Got Loaded," and later teams up with Kenny Neal to close out with "Night Life."

There are also offerings by Tommy Castro, Troy Turner, Junior Wells, Sam Lay, Tinsley Ellis and a host of others on back up. I'm telling you, these 12-tracks are an education in the history of the blues and a treat for the ears.

- Rambles
written by John R. Lindermuth
published 11 September 2004

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