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Lurrie Bell: 700 Blues

Chicagoan Lurie Bell has been an underrated guitarist for years, often playing in the shadow of his famous father, Chicago blues harp legend Carey Bell. On 700 Blues (Delmark DE-700; 61:50), Lurie delivers his most direct and affecting performance on record to date. Opening with an extended six-string salvo that segues to B.B. King’s classic jump blues, “I’ve Got Papers On You Baby,” Bell spins twisted, spikey phrases with disarming urgency, like a man who is knee deep in the blues and has nothing to lose. There’s nothing pretty about his impassioned approach to the blues. No slick, calculated phrasing here, no mannered delivery, no pandering to the blues-rock crowd, as Buddy Guy has blatantly done in recent years. You get the sense here-listening to blistering raw-edged renditions of Howlin’ Wolf’s “How Many More Years,” Jimmy Reed’s “Found Love” and an inspired version of B.B.’s mournful “All Over Again”-that Bell just closes his eyes and lets it rip in the moment. An astoundingly expressive and unpredictable guitarist, he never dips into excessive note grandstanding or gratuitous displays of technique. What you hear is exactly how he feels. And his rough-and-tough Junior Wells-ish vocals are every bit as chilling and real as his stinging guitar work. The two come together in magnificent fashion on the slow blues “Million Miles From Nowhere” and on the shuffle-swing original “I’ll Be Your 44.” Lurie conjures up Albert King in a bad mood on the instrumental title track, then turns around and conveys a real sense of fun on Professor Longhair’s ebullient rocker “She Walks Right In.” A decided Gatemouth Brown influence also comes across on that tune as well as on a version of Brown’s “Baby Take It Easy,” and he summons up an appropriately menacing vibe on Muddy Waters’ “Honey Bee.” A ubiquitous studio guitarist as well as a charter member of the popular co-op band Sons Of Blues, Lurie Bell takes a big stride toward establishing himself as a leader on the Chicago scene with this second excellent outing for Delmark.

Originally Published