At the end of 1997, several members left the band, leaving their ranks decimated. But the remaining members brought in new blood, regrouped, and opened up their musical outlook to start auditioning new material (rather than just covering old standards and obscure items), and 1998 saw the new Roomful of Blues hit the racks and the road. New vocalist Mac Odom brings along his "Backseat Blues" and turns in great versions of Duke-Peacock Records staples like "I Tried" and "I Smell Trouble," while guitarist Chris Vachon emerges from the Duke Robillard and Ronnie Earl shadows to contribute a pair of strong originals in "Blue, Blue World" and "Just Like Dynamite." Strong versions of "The Comeback," "Lost Mind," and Duke Ellington's "Rocks in My Bed" and new material from Doyle Bramhall and the Cate Brothers complete the package.
Señor Blues is one of Taj Mahal's best latter-day albums, a rollicking journey through classic blues styles performed with contemporary energy and flair. There's everything from country-blues to jazzy uptown blues on Señor Blues, and Taj hits all of areas in between, including R&B and soul. Stylistically, it's similar to most of his albums, but he's rarely been as effortlessly fun and infectious as he is here.
Taking inspiration from Charlie Christian and Lonnie Johnson, T-Bone Walker plays with an exceptionally elegant and relaxed style, the perfect foil for Charles Brown's piano. An innovator of this caliber could only spark emulation. T-Bone Walker's influence can be heard in B.B. King, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown or Buddy Guy. Even Jimi Hendrix confessed his indebtedness. Today guitarists, like Duke Robillard, Pete Mayes or Otis Grand, still perpetuate his legacy. In 1962 he toured with the very first American Folk Blues Festival (with John Lee Hooker). T-Bone Walker subsequently performed in Europe on a regular basis, with a marked preference for France. In November 1968, Black & Blue took advantage of one of his tours to have him record the album "Feelin’ The Blues," rightly considered to be one of the best he made at the end of his career. We thought it appropriate to add a few titles from his sessions with Jay McShann and Eddie Vinson, recorded a few months later while T-Bone was doing a stint at the Trois Mailletz club in Paris. T-Bone Walker is surely the most jazzy blues musician, while McShann and Vinson are among the most bluesy jazz musicians! It was impossible for this confrontation to produce anything but success.
By no means a bad album, Walker's major-label debut just wasn't quite as terrific as what directly preceded it. The studio atmosphere seems a bit slicker than before, and the songs are in several cases considerably longer than they need to be (generally in the five- to seven-minute range). A reworking of Howlin' Wolf's "Shake for Me" is the only familiar entry.
Detroit in the 1940s and ‘50s didn’t have a thriving record industry like Chicago. Detroit artists went there because that’s where the companies were. Even musicologist Alan Lomax made just one visit for the Library of Congress in 1938, when he recorded Calvin Frazier and Sampson Pittman. Nevertheless, enterprising individuals like Jack and Devora Brown, Bernard Besman and Joe Von Battle did their best to reflect the city’s musical talent.