Jimmy Witherspoon

Live at the Mint

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Beloved old blues shouter Jimmy Witherspoon had a party thrown for him twice a year by guitarist Robben Ford at L.A.'s quintessential blues club, the Mint. Although throat cancer intensified the already ultra-raspy quality of Mr. Witherspoon's voice, he never failed to deliver a textured show with surprises and genuine radiance. Backed by the Robben Ford Band, we hear a reunion of Yellowjackets keyboardist Russ Ferrante, Blue Line's drummer Tom Brechtleinm, and bassline driver Roscoe Beck, with significant enthusiastic contributions by the club's intimate audience. Witherspoon presents songs ("Ain't Nobody's Business," "Goin' to Chicago") that are in fact identified with a West Coast blend of Kansas City, New Orleans, and Chicago influence; although he enjoyed moderate success within all those musical regions, he developed much of his "shouting" style touring Europe and stationed himself, for the latter decade of his life, in Los Angeles. At some moments there's a scratched-up, old-recording feel, probably due to the quality of his voice and the nature of venue-recordings at large. But you can't miss a note of how slow he goes down on "Goin' Down Slow," and there should surely be a dance named after "Big Boss Man." Recorded three years before Jimmy succumbed to cancer in L.A., although that did not curtail continuing tribute parties at the Mint. A fine blues document.

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