Junior Wells made his first recordings when he replaced Little Walter in Muddy Waters’s band back in 1952 and is best known for the song “Messin’ With The Kid” and the album ‘Hoodoo Man Blues’. He died in 1998, but now there is a new collection which has been brought together by combining his vocal tracks with new music provided by the likes of guitarists Eric Gales, Joe Louis Walker, Tyler Bryant, Colin James, Kirk Fletcher, Popa Chubby, Guitar Shorty, Pat Travers and others while harmonica is provided by James Montgomery. We of course get “Messin’ With The Kid”, plus 3 tracks from his most famous album, and in total there are 13 tracks.
The blues is all about raw emotion and passion, and it is hard to understand that an album this powerful has been recorded without the singer, as each player has ensured that their playing combines with the harmonica and vocals to create a seamless experience. This is classic blues, and although “Worried Life Blues” has a dated vocal recording, Mike Zito and the band bring it all together so that it feels as if it is a newly discovered outtake from a Sixties session. Any lover of the blues will already have Junior Wells in their collection, but they will not have previously heard him quite like this. The guitarists are careful never to overpower the vocals, but instead pay close attention and emphasise as opposed to distract, creating an album which sounds as if it has been newly recorded with everyone in the studio at the same time. By choosing different styles of music, with the up tempo “When The Cat’s Gone The Mice Play” sitting next to more traditional sounds it gives an opportunity for even a newbie to the genre to see just why Wells is so highly regarded. This is essential timeless blues.
8/10 Kev Rowland