For his second recording, the young Champion proves to be a decent, basic harmonica player, he's not featured on every cut. He wrote or co-wrote 9 of the 13 tracks. His voice is rough, more a shouter and screamer than a trained singer, sandpaper over silk, with imprecise phrasings. But as you go through the entire program it kinda grows on you, and he gets credit for doing a wide range of authentic, traditional and soulful blues, with occasional accompanying horns and back-up singers. At his best, Champion plays and sings, like on the Sonny Boy Williamson rocker "Don't Start Me To Talkin'" or straight blues like his own "I'm Smilin' Again" and the mid-tempo shuffle "Let Me Be." He does James Oden's fine talking blues with his own lyrical extrapolation, a story about a cousin who moved to Miami, messed around and contracted AIDS for the pensive "Goin' Down Slow" with excellent back-up lead guitar throughout by Alan Mirikitani. The king snake feel for his "Troubled Mind" has some minimal harmonica but another great slide guitar segment from Mirikitani. Better harmonica crops up on the John Lee Hooker type boogie "My Rooster Is King," and a more soul blues feel is evident on "You Got some Explaining To Do" or the Otis Redding type ballad "Good As New." Champion claims "Roberta" as his original tune, and it's not the Piedmont classic, but done in the same style, lyrics similarly praise filled and pining for her return. Different "Roberta." Champion is derivative but maturing, and he's good right now. He shows all of the tools and building blocks, especially as a harmonica player, to make a fine bluesman someday if, like most things in life, he works hard at it.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos