Harmonica player and singer Kim Wilson has done a lot of fabulous stuff through the years, not only as a founding member of the long-running Thunderbirds band whose name includes that same adjective and for which he continues to serve as frontman, but also on his own and in collaboration with other bluesmen and women, including having shared the stage or studio with Eddie Taylor, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Sonny Rhodes, Charlie Musselwhite, and countless others through the years, as well as a superb recent collaboration with Mud Morganfield on the Muddy Waters tribute For Pops.
Backed by an alternating line-up that includes Big Jon Atkinson, Billy Flynn, Bob Welsh, and Nathan James on guitar and bass, the late Barrelhouse Chuck on piano, and others, Wilson’s latest album Blues and Boogie, Vol. 1 (Severn Records) finds the harp ace blowing through a nice mix of, just as advertised, blues and boogie originals and covers, including from the likes of Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Elmore James, Magic Sam, Jimmy Reed, and more.
From the seducing sway of songs like “You Upset My Mind” (Jimmy Reed), “Same Old Blues” (Magic Sam) and “Sho Nuff I Do” (Elmore James), to swinging instrumentals like “Edgier”, “Teenage Beat” (Little Walter) and the opening “Bonus Boogie”, and breezy numbers like “From the Bottom” (Sonny Boy Williamson II) and the Sugar Ray & the Bluetones-style, horns-accented “No Love in My Heart” (Elmore James), everything here is, well, fabulous. But the tracks that stand out perhaps the most are a tough, lively “Ninety Nine” (Sonny Boy Williamson II) and two creeping numbers in a Thunderbirds-sounding “Blue and Lonesome” (Little Walter) with its gruff harmonica and a “Worried Life Blues” (Big Maceo Merriweather) featuring some cavernous vocals from Wilson and terrific playing from Barrelhouse Chuck.
“Searched All Over” is a Wilson original that could easily be mistaken for yet another Elmore James cover, complete with its “Dust My Broom”-ish licks, while the chugging original “Learn to Treat Me Right” and an uptempo “Mean Old Frisco” (Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup) venture into more of a country territory, the latter having a Vince Gill sort of sound, with a lightly rocking “Look Watcha Done” (Magic Sam) and gritty shuffling “You’re the One” (Jimmy Rogers) rounding out the album.
If you’re wanting to hear some Chicago blues classics interpreted by one of the world’s most accomplished living blues harmonica players, Wilson’s Blues and Boogie, Vol. 1 is one that’ll really give you a buzz!