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Born With the Blues

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Album Review

By the time this album was issued on the Paula/Flyright imprint, pianist Memphis Slim had been residing in Paris for nearly a decade, having left the U.S. in the early '60s. From his new home base, Slim continued to record and tour, releasing a number of studio and live sets. On Born With the Blues, the pianist is joined by a pair of musical legends: multi-instrumentalist Carey Bell (lending bass and harp to the date) and guitarist Lowell Fulson. Completing the lineup is drummer S.P. Leary, whose resumé includes sessions with Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, and John Lee Hooker. Small combo engagements like this one seem perfectly suited to Slim's many skills. He's particularly dazzling in the upper regions of his instrument, stating his case with driving, staccato chords and effortless, lyrical flourishes. Fulson proves a particularly appropriate choice for the role of Slim's primary musical sparring partner, being equally engaging in both rhythm and lead roles. Unfortunately, Bell's harp is given little airing (a sweltering solo on the instrumental "Get Ready" being a notable exception). The veteran bluesman is reduced to the bass role, in which he sketches the musical framework with his crisp lines. While the group never digs too deeply into the date's collection of relaxed, strolling blues and mid-tempo 12-bar workouts, the soloists remain engaged throughout, making this an enjoyable early-'70s set.


Born: 03 September 1915 in Memphis, TN

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

An amazingly prolific artist who brought a brisk air of urban sophistication to his frequently stunning presentation, John "Peter" Chatman — better known as Memphis Slim — assuredly ranks with the greatest blues pianists of all time. He was smart enough to take Big Bill Broonzy's early advice about developing a style to call his own to heart, instead of imitating that of his idol, Roosevelt Sykes. Soon enough, other 88s pounders were copying Slim rather than the other...
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