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Hard Pill to Swallow

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Album Review

Bill Lupkin, a 61-year-old harmonica ace, vocalist, and songwriter, has been playing around Chicago since he hit town in the late '60s. His meaty, wailing harp was been featured for years in the band of Jimmy Rogers and the Chicago Blues Coalition. On this solo outing he's backed by half of the Flip Tops — Nick Moss on guitar, and Gerry Hundt on guitar and mandolin, as well as longtime Lupkin Band members Mark Fornek on drums, brother Steve Lupkin on bass, and Tim Wire on keyboards. Lupkin keeps his songwriting basic, dealing mainly with the vicissitudes of romance in its various nasty and humorous modes. "Hole in My Heart" is a simple lonely bed blues elevated by Lupkin's wicked harp, Wire's driving piano, and the shredding guitar of Moss, who drops a quote from Ivory Joe Hunter's "Since I Met You Baby" into his rippling solo. "Cell Phone Blues" is more tongue in cheek, the sad tale of a guy who can't make time with his baby 'cause she's always on her computer or cell phone. Lupkin's harp shifts from rumbling low notes to shrieking single note accents. "Think It Over Baby" hits like a hurricane, with wailing harp, distorted guitar, and a galloping rhythm section. "Bad Luck" is as much soul as blues, with Wire adding a bit of jazzy organ to support Lupkin's downhearted vocal. The jumping jive of "Elgin Bounce," the only instrumental track, shows off Lupkin's orchestral tone and Wire's arpeggio happy right hand, while Hundt's mandolin and Wire's smoky late-night piano highlight "See That Little Girl," another tale of true love gone astray. There's nothing fancy here, just smokin' Chicago blues played with plenty of drive and grit. ~ j. poet, Rovi


Born: 1947 in Fort Wayne, IN

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Chicago blues singer/harpist Bill Lupkin was born in Fort Wayne, IN in 1947; first exposed to the music of key influences like Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Jimmy Reed by his older brother, he began playing the drums at 17, moving to harmonica two years later. Upon relocating to the Windy City in 1968, Lupkin joined the Aces, followed by a lengthy stint backing Jimmy Rogers; he continued playing the local circuit in the years to follow, eventually forming his own backing band, the Chicago...
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Hard Pill to Swallow, Bill Lupkin
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