Album Reviews

Little Boys Blue

Tennissippi

Artist:     Little Boys Blue

Album:     Tennissippi

Label:     Jaxon/VizzTone

Release Date:     05/27/2016

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Hailing from Jackson, Tennessee, this six piece unit, Little Boys Blue, may be a new name to blues fans, but its bandleader and some band members have quite impressive pedigrees. Singer/harp player Jimmy D. Taylor started the band with guitarist Steve Patterson twenty years ago. Comprised of veteran players who had logged many sessions with Nashville country and Sun Records rockabilly artists, the band mixed up those styles with Delta blues and rock n’ roll. They often backed Carl Perkins and were a regional festival favorite. In 1997, they won third place at the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Competition. In 2002, Taylor backed big name Nashville artists like John Rich, Gretchen Wilson, Hank Williams Jr. and Blake Shelton. Five years later, Taylor returned to Jackson and concentrated on the blues, forming the current band that includes among others, his son, Alex Taylor on guitar. For this album, the band draws on some guests too, including the two piece Alabama Horns. This is their fourth album, their largest label, and has the distinction of being mostly recorded at FAME in Muscle Shoals, AL.

The band stays true to its legacy, mixing blues with southern rock and roots music on mostly originals, save a faithful instrumental cover of Kenny Burrell’s “Chitlins Con Carne,” The swampy title track features Taylor’s gritty, unmistakable southern vocals and his wailing harp. As the album progresses, you get plenty of soloing from the dual guitarists and some colorful B3 throughout by Dave Thomas, while most tunes are punctuated with Taylor’s harp. Here’s how JD Taylor described the band’s sound in a recent interview posted on blues.gr: “Little Boys Blue gets its sound from many places. Now living in Jackson, TN for the last 20 years, we are in the heart of Rockabilly country due to being in the hometown of the late Carl Perkins and the International Rockabilly Hall of Fame. I would say our influence in the sound we have is Blues Rooted from Memphis, speckled with Country from Nashville and has a sluggish Rockabilly vibe and a tad of rock. We are as much Americana as we are Blues. One of Keb Mo’s albums probably best describes our group. We are BluesAmericana. All of our original material is drawn from southern fiction and/or real life and slapped together with some southern slang language and depiction. We have a new album coming out in 2016 and I wrote a song that reflects how my wife and I met the first day of class at the University of Memphis. The song is titled “35 years” and yes, you got it, we will be married 35 years in May 2016.  Honestly, it’s probably the sincerest true song I’ve written so far and I’m most proud of it.”

Taylor is right. “35 Years” is the strongest cut on the album, but his versatile band has plenty of chops. They deserve some wider recognition beyond the region for their roots-driven music.

– Jim Hynes

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