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  Listen Up! 12/17/03 Listen Up!

Wednesday, Dec. 17

Various Artists, “Live at the W.C. Handy Blues Awards Volume 1” Tone-Cool Records. Presumably, this should feature the best living and active blues musicians, and there are indeed some big names on here. Things get off to a strong one-two punch with Joe Louis Walker doing a solo number called “Bluesifying,” in which he pays tribute to all that has gone before him, and then Luther Allison testifies with “Cherry Red Wine.” Piazza’s “Low Down Dog” is fun, but then comes the law of diminished returns. Rufus Thomas, accompanied by Raitt, was probably a lot of fun to see doing “Walking the Dog,” but if you want to get excited by this song, get the original record. Then Deborah Coleman and Bernard Allison team up for a grossly undercooked guitar workout, followed by a rote acoustic blues from Paul Rishell and Annie Raines. The mystery of Susan Tedeschi’s career continues as she sings “Just Won’t Burn” devoid of any real nuance or connection to the emotions of the song; she does have a pretty voice, but does nothing with it. Taj Mahal brings things back up a bit with a neat version of Horace Silver’s jazz tune, “Senor Blues,” thus pulling us away from the 12-bar clichés of the preceding three songs. Then there’s Bobby Rush. Now, I’m no fan of this guy, but I have to give him props for knowing how to stretch a little song about being jealous of his woman wearing a tight dress for other guys to see into an 8 minute tour de force of egocentric performance. Really, the groove is impeccable, and when he starts saying his name over and over again, you’d swear he’s on the verge of orgasm. Bonnie Raitt ends the album on a solid professional note, with a version of Don Covay’s “Three Time Loser” that sits as a neat counter-punch to Tedeschi’s earlier soulless delivery. So, do we have an essential portrait of where the blues are today? Heck no, but with two great cuts, and three more good ones, it’s at least a decent listen.

Biz Markie, “Weekend Warrior,” Tommy Boy Records. It’s the return of the clown prince of hip-hop, and it’s a blast and a half. Maybe the record is too long, as Jim Utz suggests, but I don’t have a problem with it. That’s probably because I won’t likely listen to it anywhere other than here in the office, and 75 minutes of cool beats and hilarious raps (even if you don’t catch the words, he just sounds funny) make for a good time at work.

--Steve Pick

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