Album Reviews

Junior Wells – Southside Blues Jam

Artist:     Junior Wells

Album:     Southside Blues Jam

Label:     Delmark

Release Date:     11/18/2014


Southside Blues Jam, originally recorded in 1970, is an album that lives up to its title. Rather than try to dazzle listeners with show-stopping solos or intricate arrangements, Wells and his team of Chicago stalwarts allowed their camaraderie and musical chemistry to take center stage. On this outing, Well’s whiskey-soaked vocals and thick-toned harp were joined by frequent collaborator Buddy Guy and legendary pianist Otis Spann.

On blues warhorses “Long Distance Call” and “In My Younger Days,” Wells fronts the band with his trademark showmanship and swagger. His gleeful imitation of Howlin’ Wolf on the largely improvised “Got to Play the Blues” is a reminder that Wells was never afraid to play the clown. While Buddy Guy would go on to establish himself as a master of guitar pyrotechnics, his playing here was notably terse and restrained. The session was clearly Wells’ show, but tracks like “Lend Me Your Love” and “Trouble Don’t Last” gave Guy a chance to cut loose. As always, his piercing Stratocaster tone and emotion-drenched vocals made the perfect musical foil for Wells’ street smart cool.

In the reissue’s liner notes Delmark founder Bob Koester remarks that Southside Blues Jam was an attempt to capture the feeling of a late night set at a club on Chicago’s south side. This loose and spontaneous recording session takes listeners back in time to a golden age of urban blues.

– Jon Kleinman

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