Magic Slim and the Teardrops are one of the best gutbucket blues bands around. Their music is loud, refreshingly unprocessed and it rocks like the devil.
Though the Teardrops' guitar-centric sound has grown edgier and more distinctive in recent years, the band was already a veteran operation in 1992 when this live set was recorded in Vienna, Austria. 44 Blues is a typically rough-hewn collection, and at 73 minutes long, it delivers a lot of music for the money.
Born Morris Holt in Grenada, Miss., Magic Slim was given his nickname by his childhood buddy Magic Sam, who preceded him to Chicago. Slim is no longer so slim, nor is he the most technically adept guitarist on the scene. But he still rocks them blues like nobody else, and few of his peers squeeze more passion out of a guitar.
Slim and company never deviate from the 12-bar format here, but their music is refreshingly untamed. Even slow numbers such as Little Walter's "Blues With a Feeling" and Howlin' Wolf's "Highway is My Home" have a raw urgency about them. The band is most powerful when it rocks out unfettered, as on Willie Dixon's "I'm Ready" and the Slim original "Tell Me."
Slim is a far better guitarist than he is a singer, but his gutsy belting fits in well with his band's uncompromising approach. Still, it's a nice change of pace when rhythm guitarist John Primer and West Side blues mama Bonnie Lee step to the microphone for "Big Fat Woman" and "I'm Good," respectively. Steeped as he is in Chicago blues, Primer was an excellent foil for the raucous Slim over 13 loyal years. Given his talent, it's no wonder Primer finally decided to go solo in 1993.
As a piano lover, I'm not overly fond of all-guitar bands. But Magic Slim and the Teardrops are such a rough and righteous outfit, I count them as my favorite contemporary Chicago blues group. 44 Blues shows how entertaining this band can be in a live setting.