Various Artists

Blues Bureau's Low Down & Dirty Blues Collection, Vol 1: Slow Jams

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Not all blues artists use the phrase "low down and dirty" as a badge of honor. There are also the uptown blues artists, who are gritty and soulful but also pride themselves on their jazz-influenced sophistication. Typically, uptown blues artists love jazz (especially soul-jazz); are likely to use a Hammond B-3 organ; and have influences like Jimmy Witherspoon, Joe Williams, Percy Mayfield, and Jimmy Rushing. But in most blues circles, "low down and dirty" remains a big selling point -- and that continues to hold true in everything from acoustic Mississippi country blues to electric Chicago blues to blues-soul. On this 77-minute compilation, low down and dirty usually means blues-rock. Tough, muscular, ballsy blues-rock dominates Blues Bureau's Low Down and Dirty Blues Collection, Vol. 1: Slow Jams, and there is no shortage of grit on performances by Pat Travers ("Too Much Is Never Enough"), Eric Gales ("Freedom from My Demons"), Stoney Curtis ("Blues Without You"), and Leslie West ("Third Degree"). Any CD with names like Travers, West, and Rick Derringer is bound to have a lot of rock appeal, and this 2009 release maintains a strong rock element even when it detours into more jazz-minded territory on two instrumentals: Neal Schon's "Blues for Miles" (as in Miles Davis) and Scott Henderson's "That Hurts." Henderson and Schon, however, aren't combining blues and jazz in the way that the honkers of the 1940s and 1950s or organ combos of the 1960s combined blues and jazz; "Blues for Miles" and "That Hurts" are straight-up fusion -- and despite being more cerebral than most of the other tracks, they still have plenty of guitar-powered rock bravado and don't detract from the compilation's loud-and-proud aesthetic. Blues Bureau's Low Down and Dirty Blues Collection, Vol. 1: Slow Jams isn't the last word on the label's contributions to blues-rock, but it's still a rewarding and generous sample of what the Blues Bureau catalog has to offer.

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