Various Artists

8 Hands on 88 Keys: Chicago Blues Piano Masters

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To celebrate their 25th anniversary as a record label, The Sirens gathered four Chicago blues piano masters to perform a few numbers each for this compilation. The junior player, Barrelhouse Chuck, is first up, singing and playing a spirited rendition of Sunnyland Slim's "It's You Baby," followed by a down-home original instrumental, "Rooster's Blues." Barrelhouse Chuck cedes the piano bench to Erwin Helfer as he sings along with Helfer's romping take of Pinetop Smith's "Pinetop's Blues." Detroit Junior is at the keyboard to accompany Barrelhouse Chuck's soulful interpretation of New Orleans great Roosevelt Sykes' "Miss Ida B." Detroit Junior plays a pair of Emery Williams Jr.'s works, including a jagged "I'm So Unhappy" and the loping boogie woogie "Ella." He's at his best singing the humorous traditional favorite "Stagger Lee." Helfer take over the piano for Detroit Junior's terrific performance of Jimmy Witherspoon's classic blues "Ain't Nobody's Business." At age 88, Pinetop Perkins is a veteran sideman with numerous blues greats (especially Muddy Waters) and an established leader in his own right. The highlight of his three solo numbers are the gritty performance and vocal of Leroy Carr's timeless "How Long Blues." Helfer again takes a seat at the piano as Perkins delivers a moving vocal in Ivory Joe Hunter's "I Almost Lost My Mind." In addition to his role as accompanist, Helfer offers a pair of boogie woogie numbers. His adventurous "Stop Time Boogie" displays his formidable technique, and there's also his reflective arrangement of boogie woogie great Jimmy Yancey's "4 O'Clock Blues." Highly recommended!

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