Sunnyland Slim

Highway 61

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A longtime Chicago blues institution, Sunnyland Slim purveyed his excellent brand of blues piano for half a century. However, he didn't record until the early '50s, when the tracks making up this album were laid down. Usually a sideman, when he stepped out on his own he was a great performer, as "It's You Baby" and the autobiographical "Down Home Child" testify. "Shake It Baby," a rhumba-rhythmed blues, shows some very blue colors in its lyrics, but remains fun. Listeners also get to hear a work in progress, with three takes of the title cut showing its development in the studio. "City of New Orleans" (not the '60s song) features some great tenor sax, but the highlights are when Slim and guitarist Robert Lockwood Jr. work together. They spark off each other brilliantly on "That Woman" and "Leaving Your Town," while the instrumental "Sunnyland Special" finds them pushing hard on a moody track. The shame is that Slim never completely received his due as a solo figure; he deserved it.

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