If you’re a wilderness hiker, knowing how to make fire without matches is an essential survival skill. The 9 most popular methods include flints, rocks, magnifying glasses and rubbing sticks together. Our favorite method? Rub a chocolate bar on the bottom of a soda can to polish it into a sun-reflecting parabolic mirror.
This 45-song, two-disc collection is subtitled "two decades of killer fretwork", and never was a set so aptly described. Chess Records was the home to seemingly every hot guitar player in the Chicago area, and many of them make their appearance here. Besides the usual label guitar hotshots (Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, Lowell Fulson, Earl Hooker, Otis Rush, Robert Nighthawk, Little Milton), space is given to sideman work from legends like Hubert Sumlin and Robert Jr. Lockwood and great one-offs by lesser-known artists like Jody Williams, Danny Overbea, Eddie Burns, Joe Hill Louis, Morris Pejoe, Lafayette Thomas and others. It seems as if everyone recorded for Chess at one time or another, also explaining the inclusion of tracks by John Lee Hooker, Albert King, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Lonnie Brooks, Hound Dog Taylor and Elmore James. If electric blues guitar's your thing, then look no further than this fine two-disc compilation.
Although not released until 1995, this CD was recorded live in 1993 in Bremen, Germany. Live in Europe is Earl's tribute to his major influences, and Ronnie plays his favorite guitar throughout: a 1962 red Strat. The fast, driving "San-Ho-Zay" and "Blues for the West Side" go out to Magic Sam; "The Stumble" to Freddie King; "Thank You Mr. T-Bone" to T-Bone Walker and Duke Robillard (who inspired Earl to learn T-Bone). "Thank You Mr. T-Bone" features some cool call-and-response between Earl and Bruce Katz on the Hammond B-3. It segues nicely into "Akos," where you'll find more great B-3 (check out the improvised "Summertime" riff). An all-instrumental offering, Live in Europe includes a handful of tunes found on its predecessor, Still River, including "Szeren," "Rego Park Blues," and the aforementioned "Blues for the West Side." "Contrition," a slow, soulful tune penned by Katz, has some jaw-dropping runs by Earl. One can only imagine what it must have been like to be one of the lucky souls at this show. The only fault to be found on this album is the mislabeling of several tunes on the cover. (For example, "The Stumble" is listed as "Not Now Kovitch.") Still, it's this reviewer's all-time favorite album – thank you, Mr. Earl.
These two discs reflect, in their way, the incredibly rich, varied lineage of women in the blues. And of course, given the title, we're not talking about singers – though many of these women do sing. With liner notes by Sue Foley, who compiled the set, this collection reaches backward and forward to mirror back to the culture the wild, wooly underside of the blues via its female six-string slingers. There are relative newcomers like Laura Chavez (who plays with Lara Price), Finland's Erja Lyytinen, and Austin's Eve Monses; seasoned veterans like Alice Stuart, Foley, Debbie Davies, Jesse Mae Hemphill, Joann Kelly, Rory Block, Bonnie Raitt with Maria Muldaur, Ellen McIlwaine…
Hank Marvin, mostly playing a Favino acoustic guitar (and, occasionally, the "Hank Marvin"-model Fender Stratocaster), turns in some delightful work on this 58-minute CD, supported by players including Ben Marvin on guitar, Ray Martinez on bass, Gary Taylor on rhythm guitar, and Ric Eastman on drums. The music ranges across the decades from the 1950s to the 1970s – the virtuosity is beyond question and the arrangements on familiar fare such as "Sunny Afternoon," "American Pie," "Ticket to Ride" and "Eleanor Rigby" bring out some unexpected attributes to the songs, as well – only "Your Song" does what one would expect in its arrangement, and that tune is so pretty that one would never want to deviate too far from the basics on it. Some of the original tunes are less than memorable melodically, but the playing is always interesting enough to hold the listener, and one of them, "A Tall-A Tall Dark Stranger" could have made a good single two or three decades ago, with its rippling double-lead guitar parts.