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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chicago Blues: A Living History - The (R)evolution Continues

Chicago Blues: A Living History - The (R)evolution Continues
2011, Raisin' Music

Chicago Blues: A Living History, is more than the ultimate blues tribute band.  The GRAMMY nominated act combines two generations of Blues masters in honor of the originators of the Chicago sound that birthed pop and rock n roll.  Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell and Carlos Johnson were indoctrinated into the Chicago Blues scene, coming to live and breathe its sounds and attitudes as if born this way.  The band's 2009 self-titled debut album not only received a GRAMMY nod, but also two Blues Music Award nominations and several international awards.  On June 7, 2011, the band returns with The (R)evolution Continues, with guest appearances from Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Magic Slim, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Zora Young and Mike Avery.

Where the classic strains of "Jelly Roll Baker", the R&B stylings of "I'll Be Up Again Someday" or the early rock n roll of "Chicago Bound", The (R)evolution Continues has something for everyone.  "Diamonds At Your Feet" has a pure rockabilly feel that is sharp and fresh, and "Rocket" threatens to blast off and take the roof with it.  Even Chuck Berry gets a stylistic nod with "Reelin' And Rockin'", one the most purely entertaining numbers on the entire collection.  Bo Diddley even gets his props on the medley of "Mellowdown Easy" and "Bo Diddley".

The difficult with a collection of this sort is the history that sits behind it.  The blues has such a rich history; is so very much a part of the fabric of American pop culture in the second half of the twentieth century, that there is no way to do it complete justice.  Chicago Blues: A Living History makes a fair attempt, however, surpassing even the zeitgeist of their self-titled original.   "Keep A-Drivin'" proves that neither the blues nor rock n roll is dead yet, while "Easy Baby" marries the blues and soul in a perfect union you won't be able to resist.

Shades of Motown work their way in to "Yonder Wall", forecasting the sound that would take root in the motor city, courtesy of Chicago, and grow into something new.  "Be Careful How You Vote" is an entertaining bit of blues-based rock n roll that is as poignant as it is fun.  Its good advice, and great listening, no matter how you cut it.  Chicago Blues: A Living History brings the funk on "Don't Take Advantage Of Me", an incredibly catchy blues rocker you won't be able to get out of your head.  "Ain't Enough Comin' In" mixes blues and soul, ala Robert Cray, in a number very apropos for tough economic times.  "Make These Blues Survive" has a distinctive modern edge, and acts as a great setup for the classic story-teller style of "The Blues Had A Baby (And They Named It Rock N Roll)".  It's a not so subtle reminder of where we came from musically, with a sound as vibrant today as it was in the late 1940's and early 1950's when the roots of rock n roll were aligning themselves.

The history of the blues runs rich and deep in the cultural soil of America.  Chicago Blues: A Living History makes sure that those roots will never be neglected, by showing just how integral the blues has been to a popular culture that continues to evolve.  The (R)evolution Continues seems likely to be a critical favorite, likely to repeat as a GRAMMY nominee, and perhaps even win this time around.  If you've always meant to acquaint yourself with the Blues, The (R)evolution Continues won't teach you all you need to know, but it's an impressive-enough resource to be a compelling document.  The (R)evolution Continues is a likely addition to year end lists, and deservedly so.  Don't pass this one by.
 Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more at or  Chicago Blues: A Living History – The (R)evolution Continues drops June 7, 2011.  The album is available for pre-order from as a CD or Download.  A digital version is also available via iTunes.

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