Mojo (Publisher) - 5/03, p.1023 stars out of 5
- "...Pryor delivers his customary package of melancholy vocals and economic but expressive harmonica. When the two blend slide guitar and harp the clock runs backwards to '50s Chicago..."
Personnel includes: Homesick James (vocals, guitar); Snooky Taylor (vocals, harmonica).
Compilation producers: Neil Slaven, Roger Dopson.
Includes liner notes by Neil Slaven.
This is part of Big Bear Productions "Blues Heritage" series.
This double-CD set of Homesick James and Snooky Prior is remarkable in that it is the first time the entire collection of these sessions has been assembled. There are 39 cuts over two discs. Included are three complete albums and cuts from two different compilations. James did one of these records himself, Home Sweet Homesick James, but Shake Your Boogie and the self-titled duet album were with Prior. The album with Prior is the most satisfying here because of the rawness of the backing band and the loose spooked-out groove of the proceedings -- more like Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside than Muddy Waters. The version of "Crossroads" sounds like an entirely different song yet loses none of its power because of its hypnotic boogie. The earliest solo slide guitar material by James, like his version of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Lonesome Train," also has the repetitive groove goin' on, but the guitar playing is so phenomenal it's distracting. The material from Shake Your Boogie is a straight-up good-time blues record; it's funky, greasy, and vulgar in all the best ways. The sound of the recording is also very warm and immediate. He and Prior just get to it, burning up one blues classic after another. Again, James' slide playing is intense as hell; he's always on the beat, and letting the bottleneck ring against Snooky's harp. Even on the more laid-back tunes such as "Bottle Up and Go," the energy just crackles in the mix. The mix of originals to covers is about even, but it hardly matters since these cats make every tune their own. Once more, what these archival recordings prove is that Big Bear was a far more important label than originally thought, and they captured late performances by some of the absolute masters of the genre. This is essential. ~ Thom Jurek