A while back, we told you about a Kickstarter project aimed at helping with the costs of a live recording from Muddy Waters band alumnus Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and Georgia bluesman Roger “Hurricane” Wilson. Though the Kickstarter campaign didn’t quite reach its goal, we’re pleased to report that the album has indeed come to fruition, with Live Blues Protected by Smith & Wilson (Bluestorm Records) now available on CD Baby, Amazon, and elsewhere.
Recorded in Harrisburg, PA, during the pair’s 2009 tour, the album offers what may well be the last good look we’ll get at the immense talent of the late, great Smith, who died just over a year ago (but whose legacy fortunately still lives on through his son, another pretty talented musician: blues drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith). Of the 13 tracks included on Live Blues, four are of the Muddy Waters variety (“Long Distance Call,” “Got My Mojo Workin’,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” and “Can’t Be Satisfied”), with other covers including songs from Sonny Boy Williamson (the opening “Eyesight to the Blind”), Slim Harpo (“Scratch My Back”), and Leroy Carr (“How Long Blues”).
You’ll also hear a couple of gems in the form of Smith’s signature “Born in Arkansas,” creeping instrumental “Dreamin’,” and artful, “way back in the day” blues of “Rub My Back,” with Wilson’s guitar nicely complementing Smith’s harp and vocals through most of the album. Wilson’s laidback Southern vocals add a bit of a country flavor to songs like “How Long Blues” and “Can’t Be Satisfied,” as well as the eight-and-a-quarter minute Wilson original “You Do Your Job” that features some particularly fine solos from Smith.
Perhaps the best display of the duo’s collective talents, however, comes just after that, with Wilson providing tough backing vocals to Smith’s lead on the Waters classic “Got My Mojo Workin’,” while “I Just Want to Be Your Man” and the instrumental closer “Willie’s Boogie Finale” with the audience clapping along also help to elevate Live Blues to true treasure status. Whether doing their own songs or someone else’s, Smith and Wilson made for one heck of an enjoyable pairing.
On behalf of all who never got the chance to experience the two artists together – and, most likely, those who did – deepest thanks to Roger “Hurricane” Wilson for seeing this project through and, in doing so, helping to preserve – and indeed protect – both a remarkable night and genre of music.