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Billy Boy Arnold: Boogie ‘n’ Shuffle

The extroverted Chicago harmonica legend and great songwriter Billy Boy Arnold blows with typical exuberance while singing with down-home good humor on Boogie ‘n’ Shuffle (Stony Plain 1266; 66:10). Produced by Duke Robillard, who also leads Billy Boy’s crack backup band, this one rocks with roadhouse energy, particularly on invigorating shuffles like “Let’s Work It Out,” “Bad Luck Blues” and the title track.

A prolific songwriter, Arnold normally features only his own tunes on his recordings. This time out he has chosen a few gems to cover, including Jimmy McCracklin’s soul classic “Just Got to Know,” which features some honking solo contributions from “Sax” Gordon Beadle, Otis Blackwell’s “Home in Your Heart,” Ray Charles’ slow blues, “Blackjack” and his jivey Louis Jordan-inspired jump number, “Greenback,” which also turns Doug James loose on baritone sax.

This soulful collection also features a lengthy interview in which Billy Boy reminisces about his idol John Lee (Sonny Boy) Williamson and his tenure with Bo Diddley during the early, pioneering Chess days. This fascinating 18-minute oral history adds a level of depth to this vital music.

Originally Published