By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
YANK RACHELL’S TENNESSEE JUG BUSTERSMandolin Blues (Delmark) 1963
Half this album was recorded at Mike Bloomfield’s crib in Chicago in 1963, and the story goes that the sessions had to adjourn to another house ’cos harmonicist Hammie Nixon’s foot beat the floor so hard that plaster fell from the ceiling into the downstairs apartment! Hailing from Tennessee, as did his traveling and musical partner Sleepy John Estes (who also plays on these sessions), Rachell was "rediscovered" in the ’60s after years of obscurity and is now acknowledged as the main man of blues mandolin. Here’s Yank raw as hell and awesomely real, with shaky miking and the jug’s bass resonance cutting in and out.
This is Jimmy Dawkins’ first album as a leader; he’s spent most of his career as an in-demand accompanist at West Side Chicago blues clubs, where his distinct Magic Sam/Luther Allison/Mighty Joe Young ’lectric guitar tone sets the scene. Check in on this one after you’ve worked through some rural acoustic Delta stuff and feel up to plugging into an amp.
Like label buddy Mighty Joe Young, Dawkins may not be Chicago’s most original practitioner, but you definitely want him in your band as a guitarist, and if you don’t have a band yet, then pay attention to "Fast Fingers" (Jimmy’s nickname) for tips on technique, feel and tone.
MIGHTY JOE YOUNGBlues With a Touch of Soul (Delmark) 1970
Like Jimmy Dawkins’ Fast Fingers, this is Mighty Joe Young’s first album as a leader, and it represents a marriage of Magic Sam guitar style to early-’60s soul with cool trumpet–tenor sax swells. Sure enough, guitarist Dawkins also appears on this recording, as did Young on Dawkins’ album. This set, however, has a fuller sound, with more bass presence. Go with Dawkins’ record first, then progress to Young’s — but if you can’t afford both, get this one.
ETTA JAMESLife, Love & the Blues (Private/Windham Hill) 1998
Etta James is a great vocal interpreter rather than a songwriter, and this recent set features classic tunes by Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Joe Tex, Willie Dixon, Sly Stone, Brook Benton and Albert King. How can you miss with songwriting in this league and a great, well-oiled band, with Etta producing the sessions herself?
You don’t need me to testify to Etta’s Hall of Fame eminence in blues, rock, jazz and even country-soul, and onstage, no male or female can out-rock Etta as she humps her stool during "I Just Wanna Make Love to You" while trouncing David Lee Roth as the world’s most accomplished air-guitar player.