James Solberg Band
L.A. Blues
Atomic Theory 1138

"For Luther" reads a delicate script on the back of James Solbergís L.A. Blues. Fans will recognize Solbergís name: James Solberg was a long time running buddy of Allisonís. Solbergís band was Allisonís U.S. backing band. Solberg and company were recognized, along with Allison, for multiple W.C. Handy awards again this year, including band of the year.

When Allison passed on in August of 1997, James Solberg lost his musical soul-mate. They had played together since 1973. Though there were some breaks in their musical partnership, the bond between the two held fast. With Solberg at his side, Allison began a triumphant U.S. comeback.

L.A. Blues is Solbergís aching good-by to Allison. The title track is the most obvious homage to his departed musical partner. Solbergís jagged guitar style has some of the same biting, wicked rawness that was characteristic of Allisonís playing, but Solberg is his own man ó the solos on "Bubbaís Boogie" are a sure-footed proclamation of that. And Solbergís vocals are forthright, brittle and potent, almost startling at times in their intensity. Hear him snarl his way through a haunting interpretation of Bob Dylanís "Ballad of a Thin Man."

"Must Be a Reason" and "Say Goodbye" are the other two tracks obviously dealing with Solbergís loss of a friend and partner. "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" may seem an unlikely choice, but, rendered in the blues-rock style characteristic of the Allison/Solberg partnership, itís perhaps the most touching tune here. Itís significant for Solberg since itís the last tune on which he jammed with Allison. Four days later Luther lapsed into a coma.

"The very last thing we did together was ĎJust a Closer Walk With Thee.í Thatís the last note he ever played," Solberg writes in the liner notes. "Nobody can do what Luther did and there ainít nobody can do what I can do. Luther will be with me through every damn note I play."

Grief has given Solberg a poignant gift: L.A. Blues is a tough-but-tender recording that is certainly Solbergís own emotional and artistic journey but surely blessed with the presence of Luther Allisonís soul within the notes.

ó B.J. Huchtemann

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Boulder, CO, USA.