Living Blues - p.36
"Throughout, Arnold blows his no-nonsense harp lines with tonal and rhythmic sureness, echoing but never imitating the ideas and stylistic innovations of his idol Williamson."
Personnel: Tom Mahon (piano); Mark Bohn (drums); Rusty Zinn (guitar); Blues Survivors.
Recording information: Dave Wellhausen Studios (10/01/1992).
Recorded in San Francisco in 1992 with producer/harpist Mark Hummel's band of the time, but not released until 2005 for reasons that are not explained in the liner notes, this is better than average traditional Chicago blues from one of the genre's creators. All 14 tracks were cut in a single eight-hour session with no time for overdubs at the end of one of Arnold's tours, which adds a more edgy but still professional tone to the album. Hummel's tight band included a young Rusty Zinn on guitar and noted blues pianist Tom Mahon, both of whom take their share of solos and push Arnold to some of his better late-period performances. The program runs through standard Chicago shuffles and tempos, with tough remakes of Billy Boy's own big hits such as "I Ain't Got You," "You Got Me Wrong," and the dependable "I Wish You Would" as icing on the cake. Hummel keeps the sound stripped down and his band doesn't hot dog the proceedings, while providing a solid and energized backup for Arnold's expressive vocals and sturdy harp. While the world probably doesn't need another version of his old friend Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man," this one adds extra verses most blues fans haven't heard. Arnold pays tribute to Little Walter by including a cover of Walter's arrangement of "Me and Piney Brown." He also brings a few tracks from his mentor, Sonny Boy Williamson I, with "Sonny Boy's Jump" and "I Hear My Name Ringing." Consider this a warm-up for the harp master's unexpectedly successful 1993 Alligator comeback, but it's a powerful session on its own that proves Arnold hadn't lost a step since his '60s heyday. ~ Hal Horowitz