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Willie Buck – The Life I Love

Delmark Records

17 tracks; 66.18 minutes

Now here is a real classic recording! Delmark have re-released an album originally recorded in 1982 and issued on a limited basis on Bar-Bare records, this release adding 5 tracks recorded live in Chicago in 1984. This is a fine band playing the classic Chi-town sound, with lots of reminders of Muddy Waters, not least due to the inclusion of a young John Primer, fresh from a stint in Muddy’s band. The band also features brothers Dave and Louis Myers on bass and guitar, Moose Walker on piano and Jerry Porter on drums (replaced by Jodie North on the live tracks). On the studio tracks there are two harp players, Little Mack Simmons on all tracks, plus Dimestore Fred on nine of the tunes. The personnel on the live tracks is not known, but the instrumentation is the same, so may well be the same team.

Now in his seventies, Willie Buck (real name Crawford) has been singing the blues in Chicago for over 40 years and still performs in the Windy City. This release should bring him back into the spotlight, as he has a fine voice for the blues. Obviously with a band like the one on display here the music is spot on and Willie’s voice stands up well to the test. There are definite comparisons with Muddy, not least as there are several of covers of songs from the Muddy canon, such as “Champagne and Reefer”, “She’s All Right”, “Nineteen Years Old”, “I Want You To Love Me” (aka “I Wanna Be Loved”) and “Got My Mojo Workin’”. Willie offers us two songs from his own pen, “How Can I Be Nice To You” and “There’s A Time”. We also visit BB King for “I’ve Got Aa Right To Love My Baby”, Jimmy Reed for “Found My Baby Gone”, Little Walter for “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right” and Al Green for “Sweet Sixteen”. The title song “I Live The Life I Love” is a Willie Dixon tune, again probably best known from Muddy’s version.

All these 12 tracks are well produced and move along much as one might expect from an expert crew. I particularly enjoyed the pacy version of “Everything’s Gonna Bbe All Right”, with great piano and “Got My Mojo Workin’”, a tune that we hear far too often in poor versions, but done well here with the two harp players in joint action. Willie’s two self-penned songs also work well and we hear plenty of early John Primer throughout, not least in slide mode on “Nineteen Years Old”.

The live tracks are not as well recorded, Willie’s voice being a little distorted and the overall mix rather ‘muddy’ in comparison to the studio tracks. I imagine that with no other full length recordings available from Willie Delmark wanted to present as much of him as possible, but in reality the live tracks are dispensable. For the record they do not repeat any of the songs on the studio album, being Mel London’s “Sugar Sweet”, Willie Dixon’s “Don’t Go No Further”, Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Checkin’ Up On My Baby”, Muddy’s “Blues Had A Baby” which emerges from a long version of “Just to be with you”, attributed to Bernard Roth, but best known by Muddy from his “Real Folk Blues” album.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music. He went on his first Legendary Blues Cruise in January 2010 and had such a good time he will be back in 2011!

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