Billy Branch

Chicago's Young Blues Generation

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Another quality L&R Records production that has been saved by a reissue on Evidence Music. Originally recorded in 1982, Chicago's Young Blues Generation features the raw, frantic work of guitarist Lurrie Bell and harp blower Billy Branch, who remain the closest the blues scene has to a modern-day Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. Back in 1982, Bell and Branch were still carving out a sound of their own -- an amalgam of Rice Miller, the West Side guitar slingers (namely Guy and Magic Sam), and the funkier Stax and Hi Records hitmakers. This album consists entirely of reworked blues and R&B covers, each one drawn out by lengthy, tag-team soloing -- sometimes derivative, but more often wildly inspired and unpredictable. Bell, in particular, goes for broke on almost every note, from his manic vocal inflections to the smallest guitar fill. Branch, meanwhile, stays mostly in Junior Wells mode (especially on the two Rice Miller covers, "Help Me" and "Don't Start Me to Talkin'"), although he has a few nice surprises up his sleeve, including the funky octave riff that redefines "Breakin' up Somebody's Home," the album's high point. Originally a minor footnote in modern blues history, Chicago's Young Blues Generation offers a hip coda to the sounds documented in the Living Chicago Blues series. Yes, the '80s blues scene had more to offer than Robert Cray and Stevie Ray Vaughan; you'll find some of the best of it right here.

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