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Various Artists: Come On In This House

Producer John Snyder has a knack for stripping away the sonic excess and getting directly to the heart of matters. He did so recently with James Cotton, putting the Chicago blues harp master in a bare-bones trio setting and letting his gritty genius shine through with bassist Charlie Haden and guitarist Joe Louis Walker. On Come On In This House (Telarc Blues, 69:21) he makes effective use of that same stripped down aesthetic with another Chicago blues harp legend, the great Junior Wells. No burgeoning horn sections or blustery arrangements here; just Wells’ distinctively soulful voice and signature honking backed by the rock solid New Orleans rhythm section of drummer Herman Earnest and pianist Jon Cleary along with bassist Bob Sunda. Each track is augmented by various guest slide guitarists to keep things in that rootsy Delta mode. Sonny Landreth trades vicious, big-toned slide licks with Derek Trucks (son of Allman Brothers drummer Butch) on the slow grinder “Why Are People Like That?” and also offers some tasty National steel support on a remake of the recent Tracy Chapman pop hit, “Give Me One Reason.” Alvin “Youngblood” Hart takes a turn on 12-string dobro on the Sonny Boy Williamson staple “Million Years Blues” while National steel phenom Corey Harris proves to be a sympathetic accompanist on the stark duet “Ships On The Ocean.” Former Muddy Waters sideman Bob Margolin tears it up on the title track while New Orleanian John Mooney digs into the Jimmy Reed tune “King Fish Blues.” An intriguing showcase for the Young Lions Of Slide Guitar, topped off with the regal presence of Junior, the direct musical descendant of Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter Jacobs.

That rough-hewn Chicago blues harp legacy extends to the next generation with Annie Raines, a Boston-based red hot blues mama who plays with downhome, real deal conviction on the superb I Want You To Know (Tone-Cool, 51:16), her rootsy collaboration with accomplished blues guitarist Paul Rishell. The two have an especially tight chemistry happening on Delta-flavored foot-pattin’ fare like “Blues For Tampa Red,” “Got To Fly” and “Time Is Like A Woman.” Raines flaunts a raunchy Little Walter styled tone on the raucous electrified Chicago blues, “Nothin’ But The Devil” and she also plays a mean barrelhouse piano on Otis Spann’s “Must’ve Been The Devil.” Rishell slides with cutting tones on J.B. Lenoir’s classic, “Mama Talk To Your Daughter,” and demonstrates his command Piedmont style fingerpicking on “Key To The Highway” and two numbers by Blind Boy Fuller, “Funny Feeling Blues” and “Step It Up And Go.” Guitarist Ronnie Earl guests on three tracks.

Originally Published