Southside Blues Jam
A brilliant harmonica player and emotionally arresting singer, Junior Wells was mentored by the legendary diatonic harp maven Little Walter Jacobs and released his first album, Hoodoo Man Blues, in 1965 – “the first LP recording of modern Chicago blues by a working band” according to its producer, Delmark’s big-eared Bob Koester. A couple of undistinguished efforts on Vanguard and Blue Rock followed with Koester finally able to get Wells and his combo (Buddy Guy and Louis Myers on guitar, pianist Otis Spann on what turned out to be his final recording date, and a rhythm section of Earnest Johnson and Fred Below) back into the studio in December of 1969.
Koester again: “On this second record, I think we again captured what a listener might hear at Theresa’s Lounge – the Southside Blues Jam sessions present Junior’s knack for making up lyrics during a performance, notably on both “I Could Have Had Religion” and “Blues For Mayor Daley” from the original LP and “Love My Baby,” “Lexington Movies” and “Got To Play The Blues” on this marvelous expanded reissue. Needless to say, Junior’s career took off almost immediately as he was touring Europe with the Rolling Stones and being managed by Dick Waterman, who had entered the blues booking business after discovering Son House. Covers of a couple of Sonny Boy Williamson songs, “Stop Breaking Down” and “In My Younger Days,” reveal yet another Chicago-harp influence, and prove particularly spellbinding as are a trio associated with Wells’ old boss, Muddy Waters – the animatedly candid “Just Make Love To Me,” a harrowingly abrasive “Long Distance Call,” and the back-alley raw “Rock Me.” Also noted, from the bonus cuts, is a splendid recall of first-call drummer Al Duncan’s advisory “It’s Too Late Brother.” Wisely, producer Koester allows Wells, Spann and Guy plenty of room to spontaneously stretch out – hence the album’s title. Essential listening for fans of that Windy City electric blues sound.
— Gary Von Tersch