By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Give the people the blues
That's What They Want
Anson Funderburgh and Sam Myers
Black Top Records
That's What They Want--touted as a "celebration" of their decade together--is yet another winning entry from Anson Funderburgh and Sam Myers, who've done a good blues album every two or so years since they first teamed up in 1984.
It's biz as usual for the guitar-harp duo, backed not by the usual Rockets but by sidemen who provide the same sort of no-nonsense accompaniment. Their musicianship is top-shelf, but what really fires this effort is how fresh Sam sounds, able to zestfully sing such atypical material as Delbert McClinton's "Monkey Around"--not bad for a bluesman of his generation. This tale of simian woo-pitching is funny on McClinton's One Of The Fortunate Few, but the song is hilarious coming from stately Sam. This catchy number isn't a one-time studio paste-up, either; it's already a new fave at live shows.
Sam's in equally fine voice on "Oh Oh," an oldie by New Orleans' Eddie Bo. Anson hooks everything on a clawing, Duane Eddy-type twang, while Kevin McKendree pounds piano. Rhythmically, this is the CD's most infectious selection. "Looking the World Over" is a swinging, cocky blues, with McKendree heard here on a rich-sounding Hammond organ part that juices the spiky, two-chorus solo from Anson. There's crisp drumming from Wes Starr, though he's more in your face mix-wise than drums need to be.
Sam plays no harp on the aforementioned songs and in fact blows nought until the fifth (and title) cut, which resembles Muddy Waters' "Mannish Boy" and is the only track that sounds workmanlike. Better are two slow blues--"The Dew Is Falling" with Anson's caustic slide work, and the Hammond-stoked "I Don't Want You Cutting Off Your Hair," in which Sam lays down the law to a woman who's too worried about being trendy.
"Mudslide" is a cookin' instrumental by Anson, his strident, well-aimed leads calling to mind his early influence, Albert Collins. "I've Been Dogged By Women" (a Sam-penned confession) has the guitarist less characteristically inhabiting the "fat sound" that some think started with Hollywood Fats; however, the playing here bears the stamp of another Anson favorite, Robert Lockwood. Sam weighs in with a good harp solo on "Dogged," just as on the Chicago-style numbers "I Don't Play" (by Willie Dixon) and another original, the chug-along "Don't Quit Your Love For Me."
"The Meanest Woman" (credited to Muddy Waters) is actually "Maggie Campbell" by Robert Nighthawk, a seminal slide player who died too early to have been embraced by any but the earliest blues revivalists. It's a pleasure to hear seasoned Sam dig into his neglected work. All manner of gobbledygook is peddled nowadays under the blues mantle, but genre buffs who get this CD will say listening to it is time well spent.