Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin
up & in
Alligator 4851
Up & in presents us with the picture of a well-traveled bluesman at a crossroads. He's been around long enough to know that the world can be an unkind place -- especially when seen from the road -- populated by too many people who don't care as much as they should or maybe don't care at all. Still, he finds plenty reward enough in the life of a blues musician to make it worthwhile.

This road-weary wisdom inhabits the songs on up & in, underpinned by Margolin's unique wit. On "Alien's Blues," it takes the voice of a space traveler, of all things:

Been ridin' through the stars since time's began
I never met a creature who acts like man
The earth's so full of natural beauty
But all they want to do is kick each other's booty!
White, black, brown, red and yellow, too
I may be green but they make me blue.

On the cover version of Bobby Charles' "Why Are People Like That?", Margolin is more succinct:

They'll take your house and your home
They'll take the flesh from your bones
They'll take the shirt off your back
How come people act like that?

And on the clever "Just Because," near the end of the CD, Margolin passes down his indictment:

Just because you moved your mouth don't mean you gave an answer
Just because you moved your feet don't mean that you're a dancer
Just because you're good, don't mean you'll always win
Just because you don't get caught don't mean you didn't sin
Just because you meant to say it, don't mean that's what you said
Just because you look real sexy don't mean you're good in bed.

Against that darkly comic vision, Margolin has found strength in the blues music he plays and shares with the universe. The title, after all, is the antithesis of "down and out" -- and not a sexual metaphor. Margolin expresses his viewpoint lyrically -- the visitor in "Alien's Blues" decides not to torch the earth with a death ray, holding out for hope and adding, "I may be green, but I love those blues."

But more so, Margolin reveals his point of view in the song selection, which finds him looking back and counting his blessings. Margolin has recorded six of these 14 tunes before, most of them with the now out-of-print Powerhouse. Others reflect an abiding affection for players he's known along the way. "Coffee Break," for example, was written and recorded by one of Margolin's friends, the late Grady "Fats" Jackson for a 1991 Black Top album, Go Girl! Here, it features outstanding guest vocals from Fats' protegé, Sweet Betty. "Just Because" is dedicated to the memory of another musical friend, Luther "Snake" Johnson, and is driven by a staccato, out-of-time guitar hook which Margolin says he "copped" from Johnson. "Goin' Back Out on the Road" was written by Snooky Pryor, who was a guest artist on Margolin's last CD.

Of other cuts on up & in, Margolin had originally played slide on "Why Are People Like That?" on The Muddy Waters Woodstock Album in 1975, while "'Bout Out" is the remake of the first song he ever wrote and recorded, as a teen-ager.

The final result of Margolin's retrospection is a smart album that happens to be well-crafted, too. Margolin has stellar support on up & in, with piano legend Pinetop Perkins, another Waters' band alumnus, joining him on three cuts. Kaz Kazanoff handles saxes and horn arrangements and co-produced with Margolin.

-- Bryan Powell

This page and all contents are © 1998 by Blues Access,
Boulder, CO, USA.