Whenever Luther Allison toured the U.S. in the '90s, he was backed by the Jim Solberg Band. Solberg and Allison had a long, friendly working relationship that dates back to the early '70s, when Allison was living in Milwaukee.
Solberg, a talented guitarist, singer, and songwriter, frequently co-wrote with Allison, but since Luther spent a good portion of each year in Europe, touring out of his home in Paris, Solberg toured with his band under his own name when Allison was not around. In the late '90s, Solberg released several albums under his own name for the Atomic Theory label. The records drew high praise from critics, and well they should have -- Solberg was no spring chicken when it comes to playing blues and touring. He has broken many a guitar string and logged thousands of miles in his van since he started to get serious about the music in the late '60s.
Solberg was raised in Eau Claire and Milwaukee, WI, and worked in various psychedelic blues cover bands (fashionable in the late '60s) before moving to Vancouver, B.C. as a conscientious objector in 1968. After returning to the U.S. after the war, Solberg formed a band called Whirlhouse. That group didn't last very long, and in 1970, he toured with the Sam Lays Blues Band, which included Big Walter "Shakey" Horton, Eddie Taylor, and Johnnie Young. In 1972, working with bassist Jon Paris, he formed a band called Dynamite Duck. Paris would later go on to accompany Johnny Winter as bassist for the next 14 years. Beginning in 1975, Solberg toured with Jimmy Reed and began his full-time association with Allison. Solberg and his bands backed Allison from 1975 to 1979, pausing only to tour with John Lee Hooker, whom Solberg would rejoin for another tour in 1981. After Allison relocated permanently to Paris, Solberg worked with the Milwaukee group Short Stuff, a group led by harp player Jim Liban.
In the '80s, Solberg toured with Hooker, the Legendary Blues Band, the Nighthawks, and Elvin Bishop, among others. In 1987, Solberg opened his own club, the Stone's Throw, in Eau Claire, WI.
After Allison signed to the Chicago-based Alligator Records in 1993, the Jim Solberg Band, in its then-incarnation, renewed its relationship with Allison, acting as his touring band on domestic dates and select overseas shows. Much of Allison's debut for Alligator, Soul Fixin' Man (1993), was co-written and arranged by Solberg. Solberg, a true blues veteran, was also heavily involved in the songwriting and arranging for Allison's two final albums for Alligator, Blue Streak (1996) and Reckless (1997). L.A. Blues, his first for the RUF label, followed in 1998, and two years later, Solberg returned with The Hand You're Dealt.
By the very nature of his job as a sideman, it may take a while for the blues-buying public to realize that Solberg is a phenomenally talented songwriter, guitarist and singer in his own right. Both See That My Grave Is Kept Clean or One of These Days are superb and highly recommended albums. ~ Richard Skelly