James Wheeler


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Chicago blues journeyman had played with both Otis Clay and Otis Rush for decades before finally recording this debut for Delmark in 1998. READY! is exceptionally well-produced by owner Robert Koester in the naturalistic Delmark style. The backing band is first-rate, especially pianist Ken Saydak and James's brother, harpist Golden "Big" Wheeler, who are both given ample solo space. Of course, the main attraction is the guitarist himself who is a great player in the classic Chicago blues tradition. While Wheeler's vocals rarely rise above the middling--neither Rush nor Clay have anything to worry about here!--his jazz-derived instrumental approach and light touch bear comparison with B.B. King's. Vocalist Gloria Thompson-Rodgers guests on the scathing "Cold Hearted Woman."

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