Sam Lay
Rush Hour Blues
Telarc Blues CD 83482

"Shufflemaster" Sam Lay still rules as the premiere Chicago blues drummer. Midway into his sixth decade, Lay remains a powerhouse percussionist whose inventive mastery consistently pleases. The veteran drummer and his absolutely sharp band provide a quality blues experience on Rush Hour Blues.

The new disc is steeped in tradition. Producer/rhythm guitarist Fred James is quoted as saying they really captured "that ensemble feel like you get on those old Delmark albums …" Lay and the band surge through the high-gear opener, "Baby How Long." On the sophisticated instrumental shuffle, "Midnight Drag," which closes the set, Lay shows his subtler, jazzier side. In between it’s pure Chicago blues delight.

The tight crew wraps itself around chestnuts like "Blow Wind Blow" and lesser-known gems like the engaging slow blues, "Mama and Papa Hopkins." The title song — in "Dust My Broom" style — evokes appealing soloing from lead guitarist Larry Burton.

This is a vibrant, real Chicago blues recording with a seasoned veteran at the helm and a rare and welcome event. Sam Lay fans — and anyone else lucky enough to check it out — should revel in this set.

— Tali Madden

©2000 Blues Access, Boulder, Colorado, USA