The Songs of Willie Dixon

The Songs of Willie Dixon

Various Artists

Telarc Blues

Willie Dixon was easily blues’ most valuable player. As a songwriter, bassist, producer, and general guiding light, he did it all. Odds are, if you’ve ever heard a blues song, he wrote it. From “Spoonful” (redone by Cream), to “I Ain’t Superstitious” (Jeff Beck Group), to “I Just Want to Make Love to You” (everybody!), his songs are classics. In addition to that, he founded Blues Heaven, an organization that protects the rights and royalties of blues performers, who historically have been treated like barely indentured servants. He discovered and promoted the talents of such heavyweights as Buddy Guy and Otis Rush, and he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1994, two years after his death.

The artists gathered here to pay tribute to the big man do it well, if a bit too “proper” in spots. Dixon’s originals of these tunes that were mostly cut for the Chess label in Chicago roar and stomp like the best electric blues. They generally do okay even in slowed down acoustic versions, simply because they are such well-constructed songs. Doug Wainoris’s version of “Spoonful” settles into a hypnotic groove, and sets a able tone for the rest of the record. Stand-outs include Kenny Neal’s “Bring it on Home,” with Neal leaning more to a Robert Plant/Zeppelin-style version, which is probably how most people are familiar with the song anyway. “The Same Thing” by Willie Smith sounds like a lost ZZ Top track — thick waves of guitar and great harp. All in all, this is a good set — not enough to top the originals, but nothing ever will. Still, far better than most modern blues. Check out a legend.

Telarc, 728 41st St., Apt. 4A, Brooklyn, NY 11232

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