Jimmy Witherspoon

Roots

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Jimmy Witherspoon laid out two great records in 1962 on Reprise, Spoon and this one. Roots places the great blues singer and guitarist in the company of saxophonist Ben Webster, trumpeter Gerald Wilson, and a rhythm section consisting of pianist Ernie Freeman and drummer Jim Miller. The mood is laid-back, down-home, and full of emotion and sentiment. The warmth of Witherspoon's voice on material like "Your Red Wagon," "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water," "Key to the Highway" (in one of the more unique versions ever recorded), and Jimmy Rushing's "Did You Ever" is on the other side of lonesome. Webster and Wilson underscore the sung lines with fills that accent the deep blue in Witherspoon's vocal. Jay McShann's "Confessin' the Blues" is a more jazzed-up arrangement, but Witherspoon's deep in the R&B groove here, taking a hint from Joe Turner. The finger-popping read of Turner's "It's a Low Down Dirty Shame" is in the gutbucket; the rhythm section swings hard. It's not as raucous as the original, but Witherspoon's smooth, clear, and deep register is beautifully complemented first by Wilson's solo and then by Webster's. The real stunner is near the end, when the band takes on Big Bill Broonzy's "Just a Dream," where Witherspoon wails and moans the blues. It's just chilling. This is one of those recordings that is a true hidden classic. It was reissued on CD in 2006 by Collectables.

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