Out Here

Be here now
Return of the Funky Worm
Johnny Moeller and Paul Size
Dallas Blue Society Records

Walk in the Sun
Sue Foley
Discovery Records

What is it about the blues that makes each generation have to peer into them, squinting? Maybe it's the same thing that unites all popular art forms, including Shakespeare and church music--a universality so broad that just about anybody who is so inclined can project themselves onto it and feel a certain resonance. On Return of the Funky Worm--very much the product of two able youngsters--it's again proven that the blues has extended a welcoming hand to another generation. Both Johnny Moeller and Paul Size were halfway through their teens when they started attracting attention at area blues jams; before they were out of that demographic, they would be working with serious talent--Moeller with Darrell Nulisch's Texas Heat, and Size as a member of Los Angeles' Red Devils--associations that led the pair to work with Mick Jagger on his still-unreleased album of traditional blues.

The two are together again on Worm, an album of Chicago-flavored five-piece electric blues that argues successfully that the genre still can be a triumph of feeling over familiar form. Moeller and Size's chops are impeccable, swinging from sultry-smooth to pointedly precise, and they're unafraid to put effects on their sound, as they do on the title track; their slide work is full of swooping yaw, propelling "Hop On" with fluid, Hammondlike pulses. The disc is a mix of covers and originals, but damned if you can tell them apart; with the exception of "My Backscratcher," everything here hits the ear fresh, and could either be brand-new work or obscure gems from the murky past. That's high praise indeed.

With Walk in the Sun, Sue Foley continues to mature, particularly in her singing. Like Moeller and Size, she has combined past and present, but in Foley's case it's a brighter, wider sound, closer to the loving revisionism of The Band than Worm's spiny evocation. The Earl Hookerisms are still very much in evidence (a good thing, as "Try to Understand" makes plain), but imbedded in mandolin, organ, accordion, and rolling barroom piano parts that could be the soundtrack to a turn-of-the-century Saturday night in a bawdy house ("Give it to Me," "Train to Memphis"). She can get pop-soulful ("Walk in the Sun") or go in for romantic atmospherics ("Lover's Call"), but Foley never loses her blues; her songs about frustrated love, the heart's romantic decisions, and the open road recall early Bonnie Raitt, but unlike Raitt, Foley never seems to be playing a character. Although she obviously has listened to a lot of old 78s and LPs, she refuses the role of preservationist, opting instead to take those influences and proudly hand them to us in the present.

--Matt Weitz

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