Album Reviews

Kim Wilson

Blues and Boogie, Vol. 1

Artist:     Kim Wilson

Album:     Blues and Boogie, Vol. 1

Label:     Severn

Release Date:     10.20.2017


Kim Wilson was tutored in the fine art of blues harp by several of the greats he was infatuated with as a kid. Born in Detroit but raised in California, Wilson moved to Austin in 1974 and, alongside guitarist Jimmie Vaughan in the Fabulous Thunderbirds, began singing and playing the real deal with an obvious butt-rockin’ Texas swagger. He still leads that great band, but through a considerably wider realm of roots and blues. Nevertheless, his personal style remains true.

Whenever Wilson crafts a solo album, it’s dominated by the kind of Chicago blues Sonny Boy Williamson, James Cotton, Little Walter Jacobs and others used to toss off with such naturalness. Wilson’s sixth solo album, Blues and Boogie, Vol. 1, celebrates those men and others with a 16-song set of known and rare covers, plus four originals—all recorded in glorious mono.

This is Wilson’s labor of love, done in a crisp, clear, self-production that best highlights the raw beauty at hand. The self-penned “Bonus Boogie” begins it with a smokin’ sweet harmonica workout. Wilson now ranks among the masters he admires, pushing and punctuating an otherwise jaunty boogie with prolonged, dangerous tones. Forty years ago, he was a great blues singer; now he’s spectacular.

His shading and flexibility, and his sheer joy despite the content in Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Ninety Nine” couldn’t possibly be any more effective. Sounding as if in front of an audience of 50 in some dark dive, he sings Jimmy Reed’s “You Upset My Mind” like his mind is upset. The passion just spills from his heart, voice, and harmonica. The tight little band on that track features guitarists Nathan James and Big John Atkinson (on bass), along with the now-departed pianist Barrelhouse Chuck, and drummer Richard Innes. The latter were two of the best in the business, and Wilson honors them accordingly. Other amazing vets such as guitarists Billy Flynn and Bob Welch, and bassist Larry Taylor, add to the authentic feel. More songs by Magic Sam, Big Maceo, Lightning Hopkins and others keep the pace alternately lowdown, funky, stormy, and even as bright as the new day. That plethora of emotions, and the excellence displayed by Wilson and his cohorts, makes the blues, and makes this one of the surefire best blues albums of the year.

—Tom Clarke

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