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Magic Slim and the Teardrops: Black Tornado

Ed Kopp By

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Critics tend to overemphasize regional differences in blues styles, but I'll concede that Chicago blues can be particularly loose and low-down. Chicago blues is really Delta blues electrified, and Mississippi-born Magic Slim may be the genre's finest living purveyor.

You won't find a more authentic blues man than 61-year-old Magic Slim, whose given name is Morris Holt. A high-voltage guitarist and soulful singer, Slim honed his skills in his native Mississippi and then became a fixture in the Chicago blues scene after moving to the Windy City more than 30 years ago.

Black Tornado is loud, agreeably raucous, and extremely hard-rocking. Always a great cover band, Slim and the Teardrops play seven originals on this one, including four by the leader. The new tunes stand up very well next to great-sounding covers of "Still a Fool" (Muddy Waters), "It's Alright" (Houndog Taylor) and "Bad Intentions" (Joe Scott).

Slim may not be the flashiest guitarist around, but his tremulous solos and crunching chords are refreshingly raw. Plus, his rough-hewn vocal delivery is downright captivating. I absolutely love it when he growls a la Howlin' Wolf, and it doesn't hurt that the Teardrops form one of the tightest blues ensembles on the planet. The band consists of Slim's brother Nick Holt on bass and background vocals, Michael Dotson on guitar, and Allen Kirk on drums. Slim's son Shawn Holt also plays guitar on "Young Man's Blues."

Everything works on this one, but the best tracks are the slow and smoldering "Still A Fool," the country-influenced instrumental "Black Tornado" the fast and furious "Magic Boogie," and the classic-sounding "I Can't Trust My Woman."

Black Tornado has the unvarnished intensity of a superlative Chicago blues recording. It's simply the most electrifying blues release I've heard so far this year.


Title: Black Tornado | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Blind Pig Records

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