The first solo album in eight years by the eternally troubled Lurrie Bell was worth the wait. Man, was it worth the wait. The 49-year-old Lurrie, whose career has been derailed in the past by mental and alcohol problems that left him living on the street, lost both his father Carey Bell (the Chicago blues harmonica whiz) and his mate Susan Greenberg in the last year. He responds with a transcendent set heavy, though hardly slavish, on love songs.
And though nearly all the material is drawn from older Chicago blues masters, he’s chosen wisely enough that most songs will be new to current listeners. They’re also right up to date; consider Willie Dixon’s “Earthquake And Hurricane”.
Bell’s tightly knit band functions as one big rhythm section, providing a springboard for his own muscular guitar solos, which synthesize West Side kings such as Magic Sam and Otis Rush with less obvious influences such as Wayne Bennett and Albert King, and are burnished to a bristling, fine-edged glare. Bell’s raspy vocals are full of conviction on songs such as Dixon’s “Chicago Is Loaded With The Blues”, which would be nothing but clichés in the hands of most modern blues poseurs.
Whether pleading on “Turn To Me”, getting all funked up on “Cold Chills” and “My Dog Can’t Bark”, or romping through “Feeling Good”, Bell brings his own distinct sensibility to the classic Chicago sound. The result is the most real — and downright inspirational — blues album in many a moon.