Good Luck Man
More genuine houserocking music from one of the most respected — and hottest — of the second generation of Chicago harp blowers, Carey Bell learned his chops from legendary masters of the instrument like Little Walter, Big Walter Horton (with whom he recorded an album) Junior Wells, and even the great Sonny Boy Williamson. You can hear all of these masters condensed into Bell’s powerful blowing which is both mind numbing in its passion and, when appropriate, subtly enveloping in its creeping intensity.
The guy can flat out play, and when he lets loose as on the no-holds-barred double timed instrumental rocker “Bell Hop,” his thunderous blowing practically tears through the speakers and leaves bits of frayed fabric over your floor. On one of the few slow blues workouts “Hard Working Woman,” Bell, accompanied only by barely brushed drums and tinkling piano, weaves malleable snakelike runs through an emotionally wrenching landscape. Ably assisted by longtime guitar foil and touring partner Steve Jacobs, who matches Bell’s ringing fire with chiming hot licks of his own, Good Luck Man burns through 50 minutes of thundering gut bucket blues that takes no prisoners. Mixing a few originals in with obscure covers from Muddy Waters (an old employer), Willie Dixon by way of Little Walter, and Jimmy Reed, Bell jumps around the blues spectrum yet maintains a thrilling cohesiveness to this fine album.
Bell’s vocals aren’t as innovative or potent as his playing, but they’re authoritative and never less than committed. Still, you’re not buying an album by one of the best contemporary Chicago harmonica stylists for great singing, and when Bell starts blowing, any vocal inadequacies become moot. This is rock the joint, blistering Chicago blues with a slight funk edge, played by a guy who’s as much a master of his instrument as his apocryphal mentors were. Good Luck Man shows Carey Bell to be at least the instrumental equal of any of the rich legacy of windy city harp masters, and with this magnificent album, he can take his place in line with the best of the lot. Alligator Records, Box 60234, Chicago, IL 60660