At this point in his career, harmonica legend Billy Boy Arnold could just coast on his Chicago blues laurels, rehashing his old tunes and tricks whenever he decides to cut a new album. But fortunately, Arnold doesn't buy into shortcuts, and neither does his producer for this session, Duke Robillard. On Boogie 'n' Shuffle, Arnold really lets it rip -- not only in the John Lee Williamson tradition he's well-known for, but also in the R&B traditions of Ray Charles and Jimmy McCracklin. Robillard's band is certainly up to the task, seamlessly switching from flashy soul grooves ("Home in Your Heart") to lazy Jimmy Reed-styled boogies ("Come Here Baby") to Delta blues barrelhouse ("Greenville"). As for Arnold, he's still yet to prove himself a singer of much power or range (he gets a bit overwhelmed by the busy arrangements on "Just Your Fool" and "Greenback"), but he makes up for it with classy phrasing that can turn a run-of-the-mill 12-bar shuffle into a masterpiece -- the swinging "Let's Work It Out" being the best example here. While Arnold does show off some nice harmonica riffs, this isn't exactly a blues harp extravaganza; three of the tunes are harpless, and the emphasis is clearly on Arnold's singing and songwriting. The bonus track interview offers a colorful, anecdotal history of the Chicago blues scene according to Arnold, with glimpses of John Lee Williamson, Willie Dixon, and the hallowed '50s Chess sessions that produced the Bo Diddley beat.
AllMusic Review by Ken Chang
feat: Holger Petersen