Songs of whiskey, women, and money -- nothing was more important to the repertoire of this classic acoustic blues duo. Good relations on stage were not, but during this 18-tune club date at Sugar Hill in San Francisco, Terry and McGhee are in good spirits. The former's fingerpicking, good-time guitar strummin', and even-keeled singing, joined by Terry's frantic harmonica and frequent whoops and hollers were the epitome of this genre's style, and these two performing in their heyday.
They do hits familiar to all like "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer," "Key to the Highway," and "Careless Love," while changing up "Sittin' on Top of the World," making it "Climbin' on Top of the Hill." Advice songs include the poignant "My Father's Words," "(If You) Lose Your Money (Please Don't Lose Your Mind," and "Walk On." There's also a lone instrumental, "Playing With the Blues"; the title track identified by Terry as "Backwater Rising"; and occasionally call-and-response vocalizing as on "Climbin'" or harmony singing on "You'd Better Mind." The clarity of the recording and the singing is pure as the driven snow, with no distortion or compression. It's the way this blues should be heard. Lee Hildebrand's episodic liner notes relating the strained relationship between Terry and McGhee, and the tale of Barbara Dane's involvement in the Sugar Hill club is as important a story as the songs the duo sing. The words and music prove a last will and testament accenting this posthumous release, a companion to the Live at Sugar Hill Original Blues Classic CD. It's a must buy for those who treasure this type of no-nonsense porch-style get-down blues.