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Rendezvous With the Blues

Jimmy Hall

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Album Review

The ex-Wet Willie frontman returns to the label that got it all started for that band on this easy going set of rootsy soul blues. After leaving Willie, Jimmy Hall has been best known as a sideman for others (Jeff Beck, Jimmy Buffett, Hank Williams Jr., Gregg Allman) due to his abilities as a harp/sax player and vocalist. But as anyone who ever danced to "Keep on Smilin'" knows, Hall is a terrific frontman and proves it on this set. Backed by a band of veterans including guitarist Jack Pearson (who also co-writes a few tunes), Hall tackles bluesy covers from the Nighthawks ("Too Tall to Mambo"), Muddy Waters (a scorching "Long Distance Call"), Willie Dixon ("Twenty-Nine Ways to My Baby's Door"), Sam Cooke ("A Change is Gonna Come"), and Albert King (Booker T.'s "The Hunter") with passion and integrity. His salty vocals are similar to those of Delbert McClinton, but Hall has a wider range and brings a righteous gospel feel to whatever he sings. His version of the oft covered Cooke classic is revelatory as he digs into the lyrics with revival tent passion. The title track is one of only two Hall originals (co-written with Johnny Douglas) and a highlight of the project. Its smooth swamp soul groove is driven by Hall's expressive voice and tight, jabbing fills from Pearson. Things get country-bluesy on Pearson's "Weep and Moan" an acoustic Delta blues that's as authentic and gritty as anything from a native Mississippi bluesman. The following "Hold What You Got" does the same for Chicago blues Elmore James style, where Pearson lets fly on slide guitar. If there was any doubt that Jimmy Hall should be a solo star, this disc removes it. It's a rousing success and proves he is as talented as many of the spotlight stealing acts he has assisted as a sideman. [The 2006 reissue adds three quality tracks including the excellent instrumental "Duck Soup."]

Rendezvous With the Blues, Jimmy Hall
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