Various Artists

Rhythm Room Blues

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Released to celebrate and coincide with the tenth anniversary of the titular Phoenix blues club, this collection racks up 13 tracks from seven bluesmen, recorded live at the venue from 1994-2001. While various artist albums often fall short by mixing solid performances with less exemplary material, there are no duff cuts on this hour-plus compilation. From a solo but very plugged in R.L. Burnside -- who with four selections is the disc's most visible artist -- to rousing work from Sonny Rhodes and a sprightly Henry Gray (who was 71 when these tunes were recorded), the album touches on various blues styles. Club owner and album producer Bob Corritore blows some serious harp behind Gray and drummer/vocalist Sam Lay. Although he's no match for the Fabulous Thunderbirds' Kim Wilson -- who checks in with two sizzling covers to open (Sonny Boy Williamson ll's "Eyesight to the Blind") and close (Eddie Boyd's "Five Long Years") the album -- he holds his own in this stellar company. Ageing Muddy Waters' harpist Mojo Buford sounds nimble on "In My Younger Days," another Williamson cover with Muddy guitarist Bob Margolin sitting in. Nappy Brown tears the joint up with a roaring version of his "Lemon Squeezin' Daddy" (featuring Rhodes on guitar) that might be the definitive version of this sly, double-entendre song. The stripped-down Burnside tracks are interspersed throughout. They provide an ebb and flow upon which pianist Gray's rollicking boogie woogie "Henry's Houserocker" is perfectly juxtaposed. Based on these electrifying selections, it seems the club really does bring the best out in musicians. The recording quality is uniformly excellent; clean enough to catch the artist's subtleties, but sufficiently raw so it sounds natural and live. Pure, uncut blues played with enthusiasm, energy, and dedication to the form, this is an overlooked gem of an album that captures the core of this music in thrilling form. A winner.

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