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Hubert Sumlin's Blues Party

Hubert Sumlin

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Album Review

Hubert Sumlin was Howlin' Wolf's guitar player for 23 years, and his jagged, desperate, and angular guitar playing was a big part of Wolf's rough-and-tumble sound. This album was recorded in October 1986 at Newbury Sound in Boston, 11 years after Wolf's death, and although Sumlin had headlined some European albums, it was to be his debut solo album in the U.S. The sessions were initiated and put together by guitarist Ronnie Earl, who arranged for the presence of an all-star band, and brought in Mighty Sam McClain to handle most of the vocals, since Sumlin was notoriously reticent about occupying center stage. The result was really more of a jam session than anything else, and Sumlin doesn't really assert himself on any of these tracks, although his hesitant, soft, and fragile vocal on "How Can You Leave Me, Little Girl?" gives the song a real poignancy that manages to overcome the banal lyrics. There was nothing shy about McClain's singing, however, and he grabs the vocal microphone on four of the songs, including the strong opening track, a version of Willie Dixon's "Hidden Charms." Originally released on LP in 1987 by Black Top Records, Hubert Sumlin's Blues Party has a loose, fairly generic sound, and a case could be made that Sumlin wasn't quite ready yet for a solo career. Still, the album has its charms.

Biography

Born: 16 November 1931 in Greenwood, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Quiet and extremely unassuming off the bandstand, Hubert Sumlin played a style of guitar incendiary enough to stand tall beside the immortal Howlin' Wolf. The Wolf was Sumlin's imposing mentor for more than two decades, and it proved a mutually beneficial relationship; Sumlin's twisting, darting, unpredictable lead guitar constantly energized the Wolf's 1960s Chess sides, even when the songs themselves (check out "Do the Do" or "Mama's Baby" for conclusive proof) were less than stellar. Sumlin started...
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Hubert Sumlin's Blues Party, Hubert Sumlin
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