Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater
Mean Case of the Blues
Bullseye Blues 9584
If you're looking for the mean case of the blues that Eddy Clearwater and company (most notably Carey and Lurrie Bell) dished out on "The Chief," be warned that you'll be disappointed. It isn't anywhere to be heard on this new release. Instead, Clearwater reverts to his long-standing eclecticism and throws together a mix of softer-edged blues, driving R&B, Chuck Berry-style rock and soulful pop. Now that we've gotten that bit of truth in advertising out of the way, it should also be said that Mean Case of the Blues has its share of bright moments sustained by an overall high level of musicianship by veteran Clearwater sidemen.

Mean Case was originally self-produced for Clearwater's own label and then picked up by the Rounder group. Using a more detached producer might have helped rein in the material and create a more cohesive mix. The album starts off on a high note with the title track, the best of the set, highlighted by a biting guitar and delicious harp solos by Billy Branch (who also appears on one other side).

The mood is jarringly shifted by a piano-led, jump-paced cover of the R&B hit "Send for Me." Then it's back to a tougher, bluesier "Check Up on My Baby," followed again by more saccharine R&B ballads, "Love Being Loved By You" and a cover of Solomon Burke's "You Can Make It If You Try." And so it goes the rest of the way with a couple of stand-outs in the catchy "Come on Down," with its acid-surf guitar refrain, and the driving funk rhythm of "Hard Way to Make an Easy Living," whose message should make it the anthem of blues warriors everywhere.

Eddy Clearwater is nothing if not an energetic and captivating performer. Mean Case of the Blues manages to capture most of that dynamism, which saves it from being just another ho-hum release. Taken on its own merits, it's a worthy effort by the man who calls himself Chief.

-- Jack Oudiz

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Boulder, CO, USA.