By Chris Wheatley
A good year for the blues continues with another high-profile release in the form of Spider In My Stew out May 14, 21 via VizzTone Label Group, the new offering from harmonica-player, songwriter, producer and all-round living link to the classic Chicago-Blues era, Bob Corritore. Fans of modern blues will need no introduction, but it’s worth repeating a little of Corritore’s impressive bio. This is a man who started young, tuned in by Muddy Waters and learning first-hand from some of the great players: Big Walter Horton, Junior Wells, Big John Wrencher, Carey Bell and others. A recipient of more music awards that can be noted here, Corritore’s playing has graced countless albums. His much-loved radio show, Those Lowdown Blues, is still going strong and his Blues and Roots Concert Club has hosted such luminaries as Bo Diddley, Little Milton and Henry Townsend. If you can judge the worth of a project by its contributors alone, Spider In My Stew is a prospect to be savoured. Guest musicians include Sugaray Rayford, Lurrie Bell, John Primer, Alabama Mike, Johnny Rawls, Bob Margolin, Junior Watson, Kid Ramos, and too many more to mention.
Opener “Tennessee Woman” (featuring Oscar Wilson) whips up a fresh blast of delightfully shuffling, dusty blues. Whirling percussion rattles and skips, barrel-house piano vamps and Corritore’s harp soars. This is a wonderful storm of blues, with a striking arrangement, built around a centrepiece of Cuban-flavoured hand-drums, horn flourishes and subtle guitars. This is first-class playing from musicians who are completely at home with their material. “Soul Food” gets down ‘n dirty with some serious swagger and verve, propelled by Corrtiore’s harp back-beat and easy-rolling drums. There’s a beautiful old-school feel here. The production is balanced so that everything feels raw and real, steering well-clear of the ultra-clean production which is so much in vogue.
From there on in, the quality never wavers. “Don’t Mess With The Messer” (featuring Diunna Greenleaf) could have come straight from Chess or Motown circa 1960. It’s barn-storming, foot-stomping jump blues, with some mercurial high-end piano runs and slip-sliding harmonica. Deep sax and walking bass round out the whole into something quite special. You can imagine this belting out from any jukebox in any juke-joint to instant appeal. The title-track itself is a slow, swampy affair, with haunting echoes and plenty of soul. Over a sparse arrangement, the band summon up the ghosts of Delta blues to great effect. The versatility on display here, from high-energy numbers to gritty, swaying ballads, is quite something.
Blues classic “Wang Dang Doodle” (featuring Shy Perry) races along with zest and zeal. Muscular, edgy guitars bounce and moan, harp flits in and out with cutting energy and the track punches hard. It’s remarkable that Corritore and company manage to make this beloved staple feel fresh and exciting. “Sleeping With The Blues” sways softly with melodic harp and Hammond organ, harmonised vocals and some fine, shuffling drums. “Why Am I Treated So Bad” (featuring Francine Reed) is another highlight, a strutting, funky blues with stop-start dynamics and Reed’s powerful, captivating voice. “Look Out” (featuring Alabama Mike) takes us back to Motown for another satisfying quick-step around the dance floor.
What captures the ear throughout Spider In My Stew is Corritore’s incredible breadth of expression on harp. From light, melodic playfulness to raw power, Corritore can do it all. Backed here by a stellar line up, across fourteen excellent cuts, he presents what amounts to a celebration of the spirit of the blues. Essential listening for any fans of the genre.
Listen to “Big Mama’s Soul Food”
Pre-order link for Spider In My Stew
Bob Corritore Online