Old Times, New Times

Memphis Slim

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Old Times, New Times Review

by Eugene Chadbourne

As the legend of the blues shouter goes, a big band would be churning away and from behind the bar would step the bartender, clad in an apron but lacking a microphone. His assured voice would soar over the full band, and something charismatic in his tone would make the entire room follow every word. This is a pretty good description of the kind of ambience Memphis Slim sets up when he plays and sings, whether he is working solo or fronting a group. This particularly nice set is of the heavy-duty meeting ilk, when blues giants of one sort or another are thrust together to supposedly make magic together. On one disc Slim gets together with fellow ivory tickler Roosevelt Sykes, and it is indeed sheer joy. These two are spirits of mirth, with more rhythmic feel than a paddy wagon full of drummers; their historic banter will be delightful to those who like their blues scrambled with tall tales. On some of the tunes they take turns with lead vocals, and their dual piano interplay is a blast. On the second disc Slim meets up with the Buddy Guy band while they are on tour with the Rolling Stones. As a result, the band is more warmed-up than usual, and the odd studio mix -- in which Guy's normally fire-breathing guitar sounds like it is going straight into the board -- even suits the musical adventures somehow. Slim's number on harpsichord is amusing.

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