SOUTHSIDE JOHNNY AND THE ASBURY JUKES - Messin' With The Blues (2000)
SONG TITLE: 01. Gin Soaked Boy 02. Livin' With The Blues 03. Rhumba And Coke 04. Sinful 05. Messin' Around With The Blues 06. Tell'em I'm Broke 07. Satan's Shoes 08. Intermission 09. Cadillac Jack 10. Looks Like Rain 11. River's Invitation 12. Come Home Little Girl 13. Mother Earth 14. Kill My Love
Southside Johnny Lyon's first studio release in nearly a decade is a roaring return to form, as well as one of the bluesiest albums in his catalog. Produced by E Street Band bassist and Lyon's friend Garry Tallent (the two share a record collection as well as New Jersey roots), the disc boasts a professional but far-from-slick sound that perfectly captures this rollicking, bar band, horn-driven music. Lyon's voice has toughened over the years, which infuses it with a more ragged tone, adding to the overall sturdiness of the disc's sound. Lyon's terrific harp playing, which has frustratingly stayed on the back burner in the past, bursts out here with authority and conviction. His lip-shredding harmonica on "Sinful" won't put him in a league with Little Walter, but he's sure in the same ballpark. Although about half of the tracks are covers (from Tom Waits, Memphis Slim, and Percy Mayfield, among others), Lyon's co-written originals are some of his best and certainly most bluesy. There's still a taste of the raucous "Havin' a Party" style he's best known for in "Tell 'Em I'm Broke," but the Jukes -- both old and new members contribute -- effectively shift gears into John Lee Hooker-styled boogie ("Kill My Love") and earthy zydeco (Eddie Shuler's "Come Home Little Girl" and the accordion-driven, locomotive tempo of "Looks Like Rain"), as well as creeping, Dr. John-influenced swamp rock gris-gris ("Satan's Shoes"). A phenomenal comeback, and far better than his directionless (and out-of-print) mid-'80s records, Messin' With the Blues fulfills the promise of the Jukes' early recordings and establishes Southside Johnny as a creative and gifted bluesman whose party-animal days are behind him. Hopefully listeners won't have to wait another nine years for the next chapter in the Jukes' story. 1, 2.
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