Album Review

Junior Wells brings the Chicago Blues

Junior Wells

Hoodoo Man Blues

Delmark Records

Release Date: November 16th, 1965

Words by: Peter Stone Brown
November 19th, 2015

10.0

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Easily one of the greatest Chicago Blues albums and, in fact, this was the very first album of Chicago Blues recorded as an album. All of the available albums on Chess Records at the time -- by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and other artists -- were not recorded as albums, but rather as collections of singles. Hoodoo Man Blues would change all that.

Junior Wells brings the Chicago Blues Junior Wells released Hoodoo Man Blues in late 1965

This was Junior Wells’ debut; though, as it turned out, he had recorded way earlier in the ’50s and those recordings would eventually be issued by various labels all over the world. However, this album put both Wells and guitarist Buddy Guy, (originally listed on the album as “Friendly Chap”) on the map. While they would record several more albums together, nothing touched this in terms of excitement and funkiness, although Wells' next two albums recorded for Vanguard, (one live and one studio), did come close.

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Delmark founder Bob Koester gave Wells the freedom to pick the musicians, as well as the songs, he wanted to do. The result was what you would hear if you saw Wells in a local Chicago bar: working with a small band, just guitar, bass and drums. Bassist Jack Myers and drummer Bill Warren were more than up to the task, laying back on the slow blues like “In The Wee Hours”, while being more out front on the upbeat numbers in wild syncopation.

Wells was always a tough, hard singer and easily on of the top Chicago harp players -- he played harmonica as if it was a horn and Buddy Guy was always right there to answer him. Some things, though, came into being as happy accidents. Guy’s amp broke on the session, so he played some songs through a Leslie organ speaker, resulting in the guitar sound on the title track, which sounds almost like a keyboard.

But, from the opening blast of “Snatch It Back And Hold It”, to the creeping beat of “Early In The Morning”, to what would become Wells’ trademark song (and by extension, trademark riff) “You Don’t Love Me”, then to the cover of Kenny Burrell’s “Chitlin Con Carne”; one would be hard pressed to find music that’s funkier.

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