Put three veteran guitar slingers together on one silver disc and you
can’t help but create some fun. Alligator discovered that in 1985, when
it released its wildly popular Showdown album, showcasing Albert Collins,
Johnny Copeland and Robert Cray.
The formula brings entertaining results this time, too, with players
who first rubbed elbows 40-odd years ago in the rough Gulf Coast region
around Port Arthur, Texas. (See story in this issue.)
Chicago-based Lonnie Brooks is a well-proven all-around man, a full-throated
vocalist and a guitar player of direct rock-and-roots sensibilities.
Philip Walker, one of Texas’ many guitar-playing migrants to Los Angeles,
spikes his more distinctive style with fuzzy overtones, while his workmanlike
vocals seem more and more assured on recent releases.
Long John Hunter made his stand for many years in Juarez, Mexico, playing
leather-tough Texas blues while hanging one-handed from the rafters
of the wild Lobby Bar across the Rio Grande from El Paso.
The three cross swords on about half the cuts, generating considerable
camaraderie and friendly competition on Clarence Garlow’s swamp anthem
“Bon Ton Roulet” and others.
But the songs featuring just one of the guitarists are more satisfying
displays of their distinct talents and attacks. Horn man and arranger
Kaz Kazanoff adds to his own considerable legacy with perfect, swaying
arrangements; Marcia Ball’s piano work spices things up; and Gulf Coast
guitarist Ervin Charles — a legend to all three leaders from their earliest
days in music — steps up with “Born in Louisiana,” a mesmerizing biographical
— Bill Kisliuk