Legendary Bluesman Kim Wilson Returns to M.C. Records on ‘Take Me Back (The Bigtone Sessions)’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Take Me Back marks the return of harmonica/vocalist/songwriter Kim Wilson to M.C. Records after 17 years. It was on that label that he recorded Smokin’ Joint and Lookin’ for Trouble, both of which were nominated for Grammy Awards in the Traditional Blues Category. Wilson goes truly traditional with this new recording, which is similar but even more raw and authentic than his last solo release for Severn in 2017, Blues and Boogie Vol. 1. Just as he did on that album, he recorded this in mono at Big Jon Atkinson’s Big Tone Studios with some of the same players – guitarist Atkinson, guitarist Billy Flynn, late pianist Barrelhouse Chuck, guitarist Rusty Zinn, drummers Marty Dodson and Malachi Johnson, bassist Kedar Roy, horn man Jonny Vlau, bassist Troy Sandow  and guitarist/keyboardist Bob Welsh. New to this date are guitarists Kid Andersen and Danny Michel, drummers June Core, Al West, Ronnie Smith and bassist Greg Roberts. It appears that many of these tracks were probably sourced from the that previous session with others added. No one track has more than four or five players, so several combinations are in play for an inviting mix of both comfortably familiar tunes and new ones.

If you’ve read about Atkinson’s studio where albums by Bob Corritore, Atkinson, and others have been made, you know about the vintage equipment in terms of amps and mics, all designed to capture the sound of classic labels like Chess, Blue Note, Cobra, Vee-Jay and the like – no overdubs. Like those records, this is taken directly to mono, no more than four tracks. Wilson looks back fondly on his first solo CDS for the Antone’s label but never fell in love with stereo. Here are some excerpts from his liners, “Finally, I just said the hell with it and went directly to mono because that’s what I love and that’s where I live. These tracks were cut at various incarnations of Big Tone Studios and as you can see on the notes, I was working with the very finest blues musicians in the world today…So here it is! Raw, organic, cooking on a HOT grill, seasoned just right with all the natural ingredients to make the flavor exquisite!”

The album kicks off in true old school style with Nolen’s “You’ve Been Goofing,” setting the tone for what follows. Atkinson is the main guitarist on 12 of the 16 including that one, Percy Mayfield’s “Strange Things Happening,” Little Walter’s title track, Howlin’ Wolf’s “No Place to Go,” and several Wilson originals such as “Strolllin” and “Ramblin” as highlights.  Another track that stands out, is the early rock n’ roller “Slow Down,” one done by The Beatles and performed here with piano, horns as well as the usual instruments.  Billy Flynn and Atkinson are two of today’s most traditional blues guitarists and they both play together on a couple of down and dirty tracks – Wilson’s “Play Me” and “I’m Sorry.” Flynn is the lone guitarist on Wilson’s “Fine Little Woman.” Keep in mind though, just like those old classic 45’s, solos are minimal and economical including even Wilson’s harp statements.

This is not about breaking new ground but rather, giving us a good adult taste of what authentic blues should sound like.  These musicians are so natural and effortless that it’s easy to see why no overdubs were required. Like Wilson, they live and breathe the real deal blues.

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