A Tribute to Howlin’ Wolf
Howlin’ Wolf is honored here by a nucleus of his former bandmates and surviving peers led by Hubert Sumlin, Chester Burnett’s former lead guitarist, augmented by a well-conceived and executed generational melding of artists.
There are solid performances from James Cotton, Debbie Davies, Taj Mahal and Kenny Neal. All of the great Wolf classics are represented, including "The Red Rooster," "Back Door Man," "Killing Floor" and "Smokestack Lightning." The core band of Wolf alumni includes veteran Chicago drummer Sam Lay, bassist Calvin Jones and sax player Eddie Shaw, who all rise to the occasion and turn in a solid set of absolute Chicago blues.
Neal seems to age about 40 years vocally on "The Red Rooster" while turning in some excellent slide work. Vintage roots rocker Ronnie Hawkins growls out a vocal on "Back Door Man" that would make Wolf smile. James Cotton is still blowing powerful with some big-lung soloing on "Just Like I Treat You." Debbie Davies is strong on vocal and guitar on "Ooh, Baby (Hold Me)." Chicago patriarch Sumlin presides with the assurance of a blues elder.
In keeping with Telarc’s recent practice, the disc is CD-ROM capable and has a wealth of great video and biographical information, especially when Sumlin reminiscences about the old barnstorming days with Wolf. There’s a great little clip of a joke from Sam Lay, too.
— Tali Madden