Boston Blues Society Reviews Live Blues Protected By Smith & Wilson Featuring The Late Willie “Big Eyes” Smith & Roger “Hurricane” Wilson
Willie “Big Eyes” Smith And Roger “Hurricane” Wilson
Blue Storm Records
By Lady K
So, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and Roger “Hurricane” Wilson are both well-known names in the blues world. Willie “Big Eyes” Smith earned fame as the drummer in Muddy Waters’ band for 18 years, and later added singing and harp to his repertoire. Roger “Hurricane” Wilson (out of Georgia) is mostly known up here in the North Country as a stellar electric-guitar bluesman. Luckily for the blues world, these two got together in 2009 at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg, PA and recorded this amazing, acoustic blues CD – sort of an ode to the blues and to each other. Sadly, Willie passed away in 2011, so Live Blues seems a fitting tribute to him.
Totally acoustic, totally low-key – just Roger and Willie doing what moved them, Live Blues includes tunes written by both Willie and Roger, and of course, multiple Muddy Waters tunes along with other covers.
Willie has lead vocals on Muddy’s slow, sexy, super-bluesy “Long Distance Call,” and Willie’s harp earned a round of applause after a long instrumental call at the end of the tune. Willie and Roger turned Muddy’s rollicking “Got My Mojo Working” into a duet, AND the lucky audience backed them up with vocals and clapping to the beat!!! Lady K is not always a fan of show recordings, but she loves the feeling of this one, both musically and listening to Willie and Roger chat with the lucky audience between tunes. Roger is the lead vocalist on Muddy’s “Can’t Be Satisfied.” In addition to his guitar and Willie’s harp, Lady K is pretty sure she heard some damned cool rhythmic knee-slapping and stomping in the background. Willie was the lead vocalist on a tune by a different Willie: Willie Dixon wrote it, and Muddy made it famous, so “Hoochie Coochie Man” must have seemed to be a natural for this album.
Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Eyesight to the Blind” features Willie singing and playing harp – with Roger’s subtle guitar providing the background, and Lady K loves this version of the tune. “I Just Want to Be Your Man” (D. Antoine) is up-tempo and features Willie on vocals and playing some mean harp during a long instrumental piece.
Naturally, the album includes tunes written by both Willie and Roger. Willie’s “Born in Arkansas” is a rocking tune – “I was born in Arkansas, way back on a country farm / I was born in the country, way back next to the woods.” On track 12, Willie’s intro says they are going to take us back, way back in the day, with his own tune, “Rub My Back.” It’s back-porch blues at its finest. Lady K’s favorite track is the instrumental “Dreamin.” Willie’s harp is totally hypnotic, with Roger stepping back softly.
“You Do Your Job” is Roger’s original and he takes lead vocals, with Willie’s harp ably “filling in” for Roger’s missing electric guitar and full band – it’s a really cool version – including a long acoustic jam mid-tune. Roger even tossed in some new lyrics: “don’t tell Willie how to play his harp / you do your job, and I’ll do mine … ” Harpo’s “Scratch My Back” includes a long, killer instrumental introduction before Willie sing-talks to his lady a bit, asking for the back scratch, while Roger rocks that guitar. “How Long Blues,” by LeRoy Carr, features Roger singing country blues, with Willie as his backup singer.
The final track on Live Blues is by Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, and is entitled “Willie’s Boogie Finale.” It’s an instrumental boogie, and couldn’t be a more fitting end to a magical collaboration; its title also sadly ironic.
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