If there is one sound that says "Chicago Blues" to the world, it's the sound of a harmonica blown through a hand-held microphone blasting through an amplifier. The pressurized, distorted sound of the electrified blues harp was there from the earliest days of post-World War II Windy City blues, and Chicago's harp players have always been the standard against which all others are judged.
This album brings together four of Chicago's finest. Three of them have occupied the hottest harmonica spot in the blues world: the featured soloist in the Muddy Waters Band. Junior Wells, Carey Bell and (for a decade) James Cotton have all held that coveted slot. Carey and Billy Branch were chosen by Willie Dixon for the featured spot in Willie's Chicago Blues All Stars. All four men have been fast friends for years. They've jammed with each other's bands in the city's blues clubs and on concert stages around the world, but they've never recorded together before.
Joining the harp players is an all-star rhythm section hand picked by James and Junior. Michael Coleman grew up in a Chicago blues family and played with Cotton for much of the '80s before starting his own band. He made his debut as a leader on Alligator's New Bluebloods album. Lucky Peterson has been playing blues keyboards since he was three years old. He grew up in a "chitlin' circuit" roadhouse in Buffalo and was discovered by Willie Dixon, who produced his first album (when Lucky was five). He went on to work as a teenage sideman with Bobby Bland and Little Milton. Now 26, Lucky leads his own band and has cut two albums for Alligator. Johnny B. Gayden is generally considered one of the best blues bass players in the world. He's toured with Albert Collins for the last ten years, but returns to Chicago to gig when Albert's off the road. Johnny has cut with Johnny Winter, Son Seals, A.C. Reed and of course, Albert Collins. Ray Allison came out of Buddy Guy's band to join the Muddy Waters Band in the late '70s. After Muddy's death, he was recruited by James Cotton and continues to tour with Cotton. Ray has recorded not only with James, but also with Koko Taylor, Buddy, Michael Coleman and many others.
Besides the four great harp players on the album, Alligator wishes to acknowledge the depth of blues harp talent in Chicago, from first generation veterans like Snooky Pryor, Little Willie Anderson and Big Wheeler to innovators like Sugar Blue. We also would like to pay tribute to the excellent young generation of players nationwide who are dedicated to preserving the sounds of classic '50s Chicago blues harmonica.
This album is dedicated to the four men who virtually invented modern blues harmonica: John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson; Rice "Sonny Boy Williamson II" Miller; Little Walter Jacobs and Big Walter Horton. Directly or indirectly, they were the teachers of every harp player who followed them, and their music will never be surpassed.
Reviews"The harmonica here is 100% pure talent. This is the album the solidified my relationship with Blues Harp. The playing on this is simply stellar, and the choice of players offer a diverse approach to style, from Cotton's ferocious, high energy playing to Wells' more soulful, precise wails. Every song here offers something, from the blues party style of Down Home Blues to the mornful tones of Black Night. What really makes this album happen, though, is the obvious enjoyment these guys get from playing together (demonstrated well in My Eyes Keep Me In Trouble). If Junior Wells hadn't passed away I would say a follow up from this group was in order. But as long as I have this masterpiece, I'll be happy." - Amazon