Blues in '97

What's tops in Texas (and elsewhere)

Company Man, Gary Primich (Black Top Records). Primich is a great harp blower who covers an attention-keeping range of material not with studied eclecticism, but with natural enthusiasm and confidence. Primich blows through vintage crystal mikes to help get that fat '50s sound exemplified by the delectably lowbrow "Dry Country Blues." This is an excellent effort, and a delight to boot.

Half Past The Blues, Vernon Garrett (Ichiban Records). The soul-blues subgenre has some of the earth's best singers, though gooey production negates many of their CDs. Seek solace with this hard-hitter from Garrett, whose he-man pipes are paired here with irresistible rhythms, worthy material, and a blastin' horn section. Slap this puppy on at a party, and if the dancing doesn't heat up in a hurry, choose new friends. (Garrett presently bunks in Dallas, but word is he's relocating to California.)

Gate Swings, Gatemouth Brown (Verve Records). Brown is a vexing artist--one of the most sublime, artful blues guitarists in history, but also wont to whip out a fiddle and play hillbilly hokum cornier than pone. This is the real Gate, playing with deft zest on "One O'Clock Jump," "Flying Home," "Take The A-Train," and other blues-jazz items that suit him to a T. He's backed by a strong, big band here, just like in the old days when he cut his masterpieces for Duke. He's been in the biz for 50 years, so his fretwork isn't as fluid as in days of yore, but he's still a genuinely magnificent guitarist. We could live without "River's Invitation" and the old Lenny Welch ballad "Since I Fell For You," which Gate tries to croon but instead croaks. Nonetheless, it's the crotchety old hemphead's best release in years.

Super Blue & Funky, Pat Boyack: (Bullseye). Some said Boyack got signed too soon, but his first two Bullseye CDs were well reviewed and this one's the best of the lot. His explosive but controlled guitar playing makes standouts of his four instrumentals; he also works here with two singers, Austin fave W.C. Clark and Spence Thomas (formerly of the Solid Senders). The latter lends a mellow slant that's a nice counterpoint to Boyack's turbulent guitar work.

Blues Across America/The Dallas Scene, Various artists: (Cannonball). Among the labels that have looked to Big D's talent font, Cannonball here gathers works by Henry Qualls, swanky singer-pianist Big Al Dupree, and the R&B-flavored team of Andrew "Junior Boy" Jones and Big Charles Young.

That's Why They Want, Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets featuring Sam Meyers (Black Top). You got into blues determined to never settle for less than the real deal and think most of the acts touted for "pushing the envelope" are pushing crap. You buy this CD by the world-renowned harp/guitar tag team of Sam and Anson. You're happy.

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