Billy Branch

Don't Mess With the Bluesmen

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Modern Chicago harp master Billy Branch and fellow Windy City guitarist Carlos Johnson team up for Don't Mess With the Bluesmen, an easygoing session recorded in Chicago between 2003 and 2004 for the Japanese P-Vine label. Alongside spirited cover versions of Jimmy Reed's "Going to New York" and a rhumba-inflected "My Babe," the originals "Blues After the Rain," "Running from the Devil," and "Cognac for Breakfast" put Branch's soulful harp at center stage where it belongs. However, the lukewarm takes of George and Ira Gershwin's "Summertime," Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Real Mother for Ya," and Albert King's "Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong" prove to be a bit too slick, as is the Johnson/Branch ballad "Hello There." The production may be too polished for purists, but fans of contemporary blues should check it out.

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