Various Artists

Crucial Live Blues

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Blues, like jazz, is often at its most striking in a live setting, where the interplay between the musicians and the feedback from the audience serves to push things to a high edge. This explosive collection from Alligator Records gathers 13 live tracks from an assortment of players, and there really isn't a slack cut here. Koko Taylor's "Going Back to Iuka" lyrically deals with a kind of resigned retreat back home, but Taylor delivers the song with such sass that it sounds more like a powerfully triumphant statement. Delbert McClinton pulls off the same trick with "Going Back to Louisiana," and in a different way, so does Son Seals as he turns desperation into a moral victory in "Call My Job." The closing track is the absolute steamroller, though, as the late Hound Dog Taylor blasts his way through a loose-kneed version of Robert Johnson's (by way of Elmore James) "Dust My Broom" with all the subtlety of a locomotive headed for a cliff with a drunk and passed-out brakeman and the throttle stuck wide open.

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