Young Manís Blues
The late 1980s were Lurrie Bellís breakout years, his main chance to finally step into the spotlight after woodshedding for years behind his harmonica ace dad, Carey Bell, and as a sideman for Koko Taylorís revue. He made enough noise to log several years of studio time with the British JSP label, but the evidence offered by this compilation shows that his sound rarely broke out from the pedestrian blues this city often produces.
Bell was at his freshest when he took his first intoxicating steps as a lead during an appearance in a London radio studio in 1989. The two tracks from that stopover, "Everybody Wants to Win" and "Smokiní Dynamite," are the high points of this uneven record. The first is a brisk shuffle with the sort of tart, ice-toned guitar that became fashionable in the wake of Robert Crayís late-í80s halcyon days. The latter is a gorgeous evocation of what has been missing from Chicago blues in recent years ó a grim, minor-key West Side guitar killer workout reminiscent of Otis Rushís Cobra period. Bellís voice is a bit too supple and plummy to sound tortured, but his spidery, hell-bound playing is a doomy treasure.
The rest of this patchy compilation offers a few more hints of harnessed talent, but only hints. Four tracks recorded in Chicago for his second album, Everybody Wants to Win, showcase dad Careyís and brother Steveís swooping harps, often leaving Lurrie in the background. There are another four disappointing sides from a 1990 Burnley Blues Festival outing, Lurrieís fretwork again eclipsed by Steveís mouth work.
The gritty "Iím Your 44" is the one standout from another otherwise-tepid 1989 British outing, with startling lyrics and the frightening chorus: "I swear Iíd kill for you."
Thrown-together rehashes like Young Manís Blues are frustrating because their haphazard mix of tracks gives a skewed sense of an artistís worth. The few glimpses of Lurrie Bellís talent here make you yearn for a full platterís worth. But there are so many toss-offs, you wonder if heís up to it.
ó Steve Braun