by Willard Manus
All three of the CDs under review here are from Delmark, the Chicago-based record company headed by Bob Koester.
Willie Buck's album, THE LIFE I LOVE, resurrects and revitalizes the record he made back in a 1982 studio session for a small, now-defunct company called Bar-Bare. Delmark has not only brought back the original twelve sides but added five additional ones culled from a gig Buck played two years later at Robert's 500 Room in Chicago.
Willie Buck is the stage name of William Crawford, who was born in Mississippi but has been a key member of the Chicago blues scene for forty years. A vocalist and songwriter (two of his originals are on THE LIFE I LOVE), he has a warm, resonant voice which he uses to good effect on a wide range of songs--midnight blues, jump tunes, comic ditties (Champagne & Reefers), bawdy barrelhouse, etc.
THE LIFE I LOVE is also noteworthy for the musicians accompanying Buck: Louis & Dave Myers (guitar, bass); Little Mac Simmons & Dimestore Fred (harmonica); John Primer (guitar); Big Moose Walker (keyboards). All are topflight Chicago bluesmen and it's a joy to hear the way they make good music together.
The BARB CITY STOMPERS is a trad-jazz band headed by clarinetist John Skillman and his sidekick, trombonist Roy Rubenstein. The other musicians are Larry Rutan (guitar); Robert Hintzsche (bass) and Aaron Puckett (drums). The band was formed in 2004 and hails from the Northern Illinois University city of DeKalb (where barb wire was invented!)
The subtitle of the STOMPER'S new release is DeKalb Blues. There are twelve cuts on the CD, all of which feature tight arrangments, virtuosic soloing and ensembling. The band might play oldtime tunes such as Milneberg Joys, When I Grow Too Old to Dream, Old Stack O'Lee Blues and My Old Kentucky Home, but there is nothing tired or cliched about the way it interprets them. On the contrary, the CD is remarkably fresh-sounding and effective.
Eddie C. Campbell is yet another wonderful but unsung Chicago bluesman. Vocalist, songwriter and guitarist par excellence, he makes his Delmark debut with TEAR THIS WORLD UP, which is his first CD in ten years (his 1997 album King of the Jungle is a collector's item).
Campbell shows his mastery of the blues on TEAR THIS WORLD UP, which offers a generous sampling of his work (14 cuts). Whether singing about sex (in double entendre fashion), or poking fun at himself as a lover (Big World), or paying tribute to his late mentor Magic Sam (Easy Baby), or getting into redhot funk grooves, Campbell tears things up. He also switches gears and interpets the Gershwin classic Summertime with surprising tenderness and beauty. And his final song, Bluesman, can stand as an anthem for just about every veteran performer like himself who has tried, against tough odds, to keep the blues alive.