In the 21st century, there are some electric blues albums that aim for a classic "Chess Records in the 1950s and 1960s" type of approach but just don't get it right; a lot of the grit is missing -- perhaps in the vocals, perhaps in the musicianship, perhaps in the production. But that isn't a problem at all on Steve Guyger's Radio Blues, a 2008 release that manages to capture the spirit of electric Chicago blues as it existed on the Chess label 40 and 50 years earlier. Drawing on influences like Willie Dixon, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf, Guyger never misses his mark; he obviously wanted a classic Chess-type sound, and Guyger is as confident on vocals as he is on the harmonica. In fact, his singing and harmonica playing complement one another nicely on original material as well as performances of Joe Liggins' "The Honeydripper," Muddy Waters' "Let Me Hang Around," and Rudy Toombs' "I'm Shakin'." The production is also a plus; Guyger produced this 53-minute CD with David Earl and bassist Steve Gomes, and together they make Radio Blues sound well produced but not over-produced. Guyger, Earl, and Gomes see to it that the production captures the grit of the performances -- a type of grit that Chess Records was famous for. Radio Blues isn't the work of a rigid blues purist; occasionally, the album detours into early rock & roll territory in a Bo Diddley-ish fashion. But even then, the Chess influence remains; Diddley, after all, was a Chess artist who was both a master of electric post-WWII Chicago blues and an early rock & roller -- and Diddley's influence on garage rock, blues-rock, and British Invasion rock was huge. Radio Blues doesn't pretend to be groundbreaking; nonetheless, this is a pleasing, if derivative, example of a 21st century session that worships at the almighty Chess Records altar and does so convincingly.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson