Chicago Blues Traditionalists John Primer and Bob Corritore Collaborate On Blazing “The Gypsy Woman told Me’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Chicago blues veterans, vocalist/guitarist John Primer and harmonicist Bob Corritore, collaborate for the third time on The Gypsy Woman Told Me, the title and song from Muddy Waters famed catalog. Both headliners have won BMAs and have joined before on 2017’s Ain’t Nothin’ You Can Do and 2013’s Knockin’ Around These Blues. While Primer tours with his Real Deal Blues Band, Corritore guests with many artists and owns the premier blues spot in Phoenix, The Rhythm Room. Yet, the two are frequent collaborators because they understand the idiom and there are not many left who continue to play in the traditional style.

They did manage to find several like-minded players for these sessions recorded at various points throughout 2018 and 2019 and produced by Corritore, Clarke Risgby, and Kid Andersen. As a result, there are multiple players on each instrument supporting the two headliners They are guitarists Jimi “Primetime” Smith and Billy Flynn, pianist Bob Welch with Ben Levin on the 88s for one track and Andersen on organ for another, three bassists – Kedar Roy, Mike Hightower, and Troy Sandow; and two drummers – June Core and Brian Fahey.

John Primer and Lurrie Bell are generally considered today’s two best vocalist/guitar traditionalists. Like Bell, Primer has plenty of cred, having played in Muddy Water’s band as well as bands of Magic Slim and Junior Wells. He may also, other than Muddy’s sons, have the voice that best resembles his former bandleader. Should you have any doubts, listen to Primer sing the title track as well as any of the dozen here. He wrote a couple of originals – “Little Bitty Woman,” one of the standouts, and “Walked So Long” that are mixed in with mostly obscure blues tunes saving Chick Willis’ opening “Keep-A-Driving” and J.J. Cale’s “I Got the Same Old Blues.”

You’ll find Corritore’s names on multiple albums as both a player and producer, including his two most recent efforts on this, the Vizztone label – Bob Corritore and Friends – Don’t Let the Devil Ride and Do the Hip Shake, Baby! Corritore grew up in Chicago but has resided in Phoenix for over two decades now. He plays on multiple albums, because he is one of the top traditional harp players and maybe even more importantly because he has no problem leaving his ego at the door.

Whether blazing ahead in stomping 12-bar fashion, or slowing it to an aching simmer in the disc’s longest cut, “Walking the Back Streets and Crying, with some killer piano from Welsh, a terrific Corritore solo, and piercing licks Primer, this is the real deal, down and dirty blues. Andersen’s organ puts some funk in “I Got the Same Old Blues” while Sonny Boy Williamson’s “My Imagination” is the perfect tune for Corritore’s wailing harp.

Few Chicago blues albums are complete without a Jimmy Reed tune, and “Let’s Get Together,” with Jimi Smith on guitar as he as on the J.J. Cale tune, gets that nod here. “Left Me with a Broken Heart,” a mid-tempo tune, features Ben Levin on piano and Billy Flynn on guitar. Primer delivers his own “Walked So Long” with the raw credibility of vintage blues man who feels pain in every step he takes (“walked so long ‘til my feet got soaking wet…looking for my baby and haven’t found her yet.”)  As many Chicago blues shows end with a burner like “Sweet Home Chicago,” this one ends in similar fashion with the smoking “Ain’t Gonna Be No Cuttin’ Loose,” but rather than a celebratory call this is another of those standard blues warnings to the guy’s woman (“you better put away that sugar baby cuz there ain’t gonna be no cuttin’ loose.”)

As we’ve grown accustomed to by now, the two play together so comfortably and seamlessly, you’ll feel transported back to the heyday of that Chess Chicago blues sound. It’s pure, refreshing, heartfelt and moving.



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