Chris Smither spent a fair chunk of time in the mid-2010s looking back, culminating in Still on the Levee, a two-disc set from 2014 that found the singer/songwriter revisiting songs he recorded in the past. Arriving four years later, Call Me Lucky functions as something of an answer to that aesthetic, finding the singer/songwriter living squarely in the present. He opens the album with the lively blues shuffle "The Blame's on Me," which is quickly followed by a minor-key rendition of Chuck Berry's "Maybellene," and he effectively sets the pace for the rest of the album. As Call Me Lucky rolls on – the album proper is ten tracks, but there are six additional "B-Sides" featuring alternate takes of songs on the album, plus an introspective version of the Beatles' "She Said She Said" – Smither adds some slower, gentler touches (highlighted by the lovely "By the Numbers"), but he retains this same sense of immediacy. By playing so directly and simply – the album isn't unadorned, there are additional harmonies and guitars, yet it feels like it is – Chris Smither creates a bracing, intimate record, one that feels filled with earned truths.
All 20 of the Lucky Millinder Orchestra's valuable 1941-1942 recordings are on this recommended CD. Millinder himself was not a musician and his only vocal here is mostly shouting on "Ride, Red, Ride," but he was an effective bandleader and frontman. Other than a couple of World War II propaganda songs, the music on these sessions emphasizes swing, and several notable artists are featured. Sister Rosetta Tharpe (who also played excellent guitar) has six rollicking showcases, and among the soloists are clarinetist Buster Bailey, tenorman Stafford Simon, pianist Bill Doggett, and (on the final four songs) altoist Tab Smith and the rapidly emerging trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. On "Little John Special," Dizzy quotes directly from the as-yet-unwritten "Salt Peanuts." Other highlights include "Rock Daniel," "Apollo Jump," "Rock Me," "That's All," and "Mason Flyer."