Sunnyland Slim

1947-1948

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AllMusic Review by

This installment in the Classics complete Sunnyland Slim chronology opens with two sides he cut in 1947 for the Aristocrat label in the company of guitarist Muddy Waters and bassist Ernest "Big" Crawford. Sunnyland expresses his own brand of murderous intent on "Johnson Machine Gun," threatening to arm himself and become "a walking cyclone" from Saginaw to highway 94. (Interested parties should consult a map of Michigan in order to fully appreciate the geographical span of his descriptive rage.) Two sessions from December 1947 resulted in eight recordings that were issued on the Victor label. Something interesting happened here. With the amazing Blind John Davis in command of the piano, Sunnyland was able to concentrate on singing with all his heart, punctuating the verses with loud whoops and hollers. Add guitarist Big Bill Broonzy, bassist Ransom Knowling, and drummer Judge Riley, and you've got one formidable Chicago blues quartet backing up a vocalist who holds nothing back. During the year 1948 Sunnyland Slim recorded for a lot of small labels. His Hy-Tone recordings appeared under the heading of Sunnyland Slim & His Sunny Boys. Four of these (Hy-Tone 32 and 34) feature the leader's high gritty voice and fine piano with Lonnie Johnson's amplified guitar and an excellent string bassist named Andrew Harris. On two titles issued as Hy-Tone 37, Sunnyland's band is completely unidentified. This is a shame, as the nameless tenor saxophonist contributes his share of expressive solos. Two more sides for Aristocrat feature a burning alto saxophonist named Alex Atkins, a heavy-handed plucked bass solo by "Big" Crawford, and the unmistakable electrified guitar of Muddy Waters. Two titles released on the Opera record label as by "Delta Joe" are duets between Sunnyland Slim and electric guitarist Leroy Foster. Although a title like "Roll, Tumble and Flop" might at first imply jump music, this tune and its flip side fall back on the traditional slow drag blues lament. The four tracks closing out this compilation were recorded for the Tempo-Tone label with Little Walter blowing the harmonica, both Floyd Jones and Muddy Waters playing guitars, and Leroy Foster knocking the drums. With both Little Walter and Floyd Jones singing up a storm, Sunnyland Slim was able to focus his energies on the task of playing enough piano to round off one of the toughest of the postwar Chicago blues bands.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
feat: Muddy Waters
2:52
2
feat: Muddy Waters
2:36
3 3:10
4 3:11
5 3:12
6
3:09
7 2:45
8 2:56
9 2:56
10 2:57
11 2:38
12 2:51
13 2:30
14 2:45
15 3:02
16 3:08
17
feat: Muddy Waters
2:49
18
feat: Muddy Waters
2:43
19
3:21
20
3:16
21
2:29
22
2:49
23
feat: Muddy Waters
2:15
24
feat: Muddy Waters
2:43
blue highlight denotes track pick