Personnel: Kenny Neal (vocals, guitar, harmonica, background vocals); Debbie Davies, John Primer, Taj Mahal (vocals, guitar); Junior Wells (vocals, harmonica); Marty Grebb (vocals, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, piano); Lady Bianca (vocals, piano); Sam Lay (vocals, drums); Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson, Terry Evans, Maria Muldaur (vocals); Danny Caron, Larry Burton, Larry McCray, Ry Cooder (guitar); Carl Lockett (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Jimmy Vivino (acoustic guitar); Derek Trucks, Sonny Landreth (slide guitar); Joe Goldmark (steel guitar); Greg "Fingers" Taylor , Jerry Portnoy, Matthew Skoller, Charlie Musselwhite (harmonica); Lynwood Cooke (saxophone); Melecio Magdaluyo (alto saxophone, tenor saxophone); Gil Bernal, James Calire, Jerry Vivino, Rev. Ron Stallings (tenor saxophone); Richie Rosenberg (baritone saxophone); Dan Rabinovitz, Louis Fasman, Mark Pender (trumpet); Kevin Porter (trombone, tuba); Wayne Wallace (trombone); Celia Ann Price, Ken Saydak, Anthony Geraci (piano, organ); David Maxwell, Dave Matthews , Jon Cleary (piano); Jeff Alviani, Scott Healy (keyboards); Nick Milo (synthesizer); Bob Sunda (electric bass); Kennard Johnson, Dave Rokeach, Ola Dixon, Tony Braunagel, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Mario Calire, Steve McCray, Herman V. Ernest III, James Wormworth (drums); Mike Vernon, Arno Lucas, Fred Walcott (percussion); Willie Green, Jr. , Pauline Lozana, Ray Williams (background vocals).
From the "ain't nothin' more authentic" dirge of Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson's "So Mean to Me" to the barrelhouse cluckin' of Marty Grebb's "Hen House," this blatant copy of Joel Dorn's Jazz For- series combines true tales of loss with rather peppy pleas for love, wealth, and the other anti-ingredients of the blues. In true blues, everything gets lost, prompting Junior Wells to ask the somewhat musical question "Why Are People Like That" (a bluesy companion to Dylan's "Rainy Day Women"). While John Primer's "Brutal Hearted Woman" might be the culprit, Son Seals tells listeners that it can be the love itself that has the breakdown. In those cases where the problem is not your woman (which is actually the desired aim in Sugar Ray Norcia's blues-hearted "Life Will Be Better"), another common culprit is money (which is the titular theme of Debbie Davies' contribution). In the modern blues age, that can also mean a case of "Credit Card Blues," which Terry Evans diagnoses with insightful and cautionary humor. In the worst case scenario, love and money can combine for even more tragic results, as in Sam Lay's "Somebody's Gotta Do It." Though you may not want to admit it, there are times when the loss is your own darn fault, as in Kenny Neal's Cocker-esque "Killed the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg." Other times, the loss is not intentional, but still ends up being your fault, as in Lady Bianca's Motown-worthy heart-burner "How Do I Tell My Little Sister?" No matter what causes the pain, sometimes the only answer seems to be diving into a sea of drink, as Willie Dixon prepares to do in "If the Sea Was Whiskey." Other times, there isn't anything to do but sing the blues. Though the repertoire and cast of characters on this label sampler is impressive, nobody puts it together better than Maria Muldaur, whose aching "Misery and the Blues" sums it all up in more than name. ~ Matthew Robinson