We’ve heard him on joint projects with the likes of John Primer and Tail Dragger, and also as a guest on recordings from Diunna Greenleaf, Mud Morganfield, Louisiana Red, The Mannish Boys, and Dave Specter, to name just a few, not to mention his role in Project Blues’ superb Muddy Waters Tribute that took place in Ohio a year ago this month or his own pretty terrific instrumental blues album Taboo. Now harmonica ace Bob Corritore is back with another spectacular collaboration with one of blues music’s greats – longtime Howlin’ Wolf keyboardist Henry Gray – in The Henry Gray/Bob Corritore Sessions, Vol. 1: Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest (Delta Groove Music).
Featuring 14 songs from a dozen sessions over a nearly 20-year period, Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest is a splendid look at the shared work of these two icons through the past two decades, often joined by such special guests as Robert Lockwood Jr., Bob Margolin, Kid Ramos, Nappy Brown, Tail Dragger, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Bob Stroger, Kirk Fletcher, Dave Riley, and others. We had the pleasure of witnessing firsthand the magic of Corritore and Gray playing together (along with Tail Dragger) during a show at Corritore’s Phoenix blues club The Rhythm Room a few years back, but for those looking either to get their own first taste or re-live the specialness of a similar live collaboration between the two, Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest is a great place to turn.
The album opens on a frisky, boogie woogie-styled “Let’s Get High” that features Chicago blues veterans Bob Stroger and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith on bass and drums, respectively, with both also helping on background vocals. That’s followed by the deep, slow blues of the title track, one of several tunes to include longtime Muddy Waters band guitarist Bob Margolin, whose unmistakable, stinging guitar tones can also be heard on the similar “Trouble Blues” (Lowell Fulson) as well as the creeping closer, B.B. King’s “She Don’t Move Me No More”.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that soft and smooth is the extent of what Gray (now 90 years young) can deliver; there’s a terrific diversity of tracks here, as much because of Gray’s own vocals on nine of the songs – often just as gritty as they can be tender, as demonstrated on such tracks as the breezy, swinging “I’m In Love Again” with its lyrics of “I need your lovin’, I need it bad/ just like a dog when he’s goin’ mad/ ooh wee baby, ooh ooh wee/ baby, don’t you let your dog bite me” and Doug James accompanying on saxophone, and the shuffling, hoarse-vocaled “They Raided the Joint” with Kid Ramos on guitar – as for the impressive rotation of guest vocalists that includes the late, great Robert Lockwood Jr. on both guitar and vocals for Robert Johnson’s “Ramblin’ on My Mind”, Nappy Brown on the classic “Worried Life Blues” (Maceo Merriweather) with Ramos again on guitar, Dave Riley on guitar and vocals for the uptempo “Ride With Your Daddy Tonight”, John Brim on guitar and vocals for “That Ain’t Right”, and Tail Dragger on the blast that is “Boogie Woogie Ball”, where they’re joined by Kirk Fletcher on guitar.
That’s all rounded out by a steady-rolling “I’m Gonna Miss You”, the lively “Can’t Afford to Do It”, and a grooving take on Jimmy Reed ‘s “Honey Don’t Let Me Go”.
Both Gray and Corritore are masters of their instruments, and together, they share a cohesiveness that many even full-time duos would be hard-pressed to match. Add to this the fact that all but four of the songs here were previously unreleased, and you start to get a sense for just how much of a treasure Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest is.
The Vol. 1 in the title suggests there may be a good deal more to be heard from Gray and Corritore’s two decades of collaboration, but for now, we’re pretty content simply to enjoy all there is to appreciate about this one, easily among the year’s finest.
Harping on the Taboo: Bob Corritore offers up album of blues harmonica instrumentals
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Longtime friends in the blues reunite for Tail Dragger, Bob Corritore CD release party