Emery Williams Jr.
Little Arthur Duncan
Blues Across America -- The Chicago Scene
Most distinctive of the trio is the late Emery Williams Jr., whose 1993 recordings reveal a soulful, potent vocalist. Williams, who died in March 1996 of lung cancer, was equally adept at soulful, minor-keyed slow blues ("The Whammy," "I'm Guilty") as well as straight-ahead shuffles. The latter are enhanced by nice harp work from Madison Slim.
Robert Plunkett has a hoarse, distinctive blues voice that shines on the slow blues "Stranded in St. Louis" and the Willie Dixon-styled, stop-time tune, "Sweet Tooth." Plunkett came to Chicago in 1946 from Benton, Mississippi and has worked with Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Freddie King and Elmore James. Plunkett gets able harp support from Mark Hummel.
Singer/harpman Little Arthur Duncan closes with a set of songs recorded in 1989 that recall Slim Harpo, Howlin' Wolf and J.B. Lenoir. Duncan, who was born on the same Indianola, Mississippi, plantation as was B.B. King, owns the Back Scratcher Social Club on Chicago's West Side. He reportedly hasn't been playing much harp lately because he's down to two teeth and needs to either get those taken out or have some new ones put in.
This trio of performers plays fine, genuine Chicago blues. However, a sampler of the city's blues scene -- and that's how this is packaged -- would be more compelling if it focused on recordings that reflected what's happening in Chicago now, not several years ago.
-- Bryan Powell