Billy Boy Arnold: Catfish

Derek Taylor By

Sign in to view read count
Bluesman Billy Boy Arnold’s first big break came when he teamed with his friend Ellas McDaniel (better known as Bo Diddley) cut a demo tape for Chess Records in 1955. Thanks to the fickle preferences of Leonard Chess Diddley ended up with a record contract and Arnold was left holding the bag. It was a precedent that would shadow Arnold for much of his career, keeping him out of the spotlight and making the documentation of his work sporadic. Fortunately he kept at it and things finally paid off decades later when he teamed up with the Alligator label. Along the way he waxed various sessions that map a continuum from his beginnings as a protégé of Sonny Boy Williamson to his current place as a veteran bluesman with a loyal following and distinct style.

Plucked from the middle phase of Arnold’s career this disc finds him collaborating with the British blues-rock band The Groundhogs on a collection of taproom classics. While Arnold’s harp usually takes a back seat to his vocals, there are still plenty of moments where his scorching amplified lines tear things up. The title track is a full-tilt rocker with twin guitars blasting forth over a shuffling drum backbeat and chest-rattling bass. Arnold growls out lines against counterpoint from the lead guitar before hoisting his harp to his lips and blowing a few stinging choruses. This is neck snapping, hip-popping music that will set even the most lethargic foot to stomping. Later tracks mix mellow laidback sentiments like those expressed on “Tomorrow Night” with the more corrosive fare. “Dirty Mother Fuyer,” a barely concealed expletive in and of itself, is definitely sheared from the latter ragged cloth and Arnold tosses out thinly veiled raunch atop a fuzzed out mattress of guitars and rhythm. Likewise the cryptic “1-2-99” bubbles over with a sticky mix of studio echoplex and fat bottom bass. The band’s rocking trajectory hits a boiling point in terms of down and dirty delivery on “Riding the El” where choppy riffs and wailing harp simulate a harrowing trip on the Chicago’s elevated rails.

Interspersed between the music are occasional asides from Arnold that give a behind the scenes taste of the studio atmosphere when the tunes were committed to tape. Overall this disc is one of ups and downs, but the peaks are fortunately far more plentiful than the valleys. Even more importantly Arnold fits right in with the rock-enamored dispositions of his sidemen. In the process he cooks up a generously packed creation that stays true to his roots while at the same time incorporating new sounds and directions.

Catfish on the web: http://www.catfishrecords.co.uk/

Track Listing: Catfish/ Tomorrow Night/ Dirty Mother Fuyer/ Annie Lee/ 1-22-99/ Just Got To Know/ She Fooled Me/ Don

Personnel: Billy Boy Arnold & the Groundhogs

| Record Label: Catfish Records (UK) | Style: Blues


CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
B.B. King B.B. King
guitar, electric
Buddy Guy Buddy Guy
guitar, electric
Memphis Slim Memphis Slim
Little Walter Little Walter
James Cotton James Cotton
Jimmy Reed Jimmy Reed
guitar, electric
Junior Wells Junior Wells
J.B. Lenoir J.B. Lenoir
Big Walter Horton Big Walter Horton
Jimmy Rogers Jimmy Rogers
guitar, electric
Snooky Pryor Snooky Pryor

More Articles

Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Desire & Freedom CD/LP/Track Review Desire & Freedom
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 19, 2017
Read On Hollywood Boulevard CD/LP/Track Review On Hollywood Boulevard
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Motorman's Son CD/LP/Track Review The Motorman's Son
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "Three Worlds: Music From Woolf Works" CD/LP/Track Review Three Worlds: Music From Woolf Works
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: February 4, 2017
Read "Live" CD/LP/Track Review Live
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 31, 2016
Read "The Music of Enrico Pieranunzi" CD/LP/Track Review The Music of Enrico Pieranunzi
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 23, 2016
Read "Cantos Invisíveis" CD/LP/Track Review Cantos Invisíveis
by Troy Collins
Published: November 18, 2016
Read "In Tokyo, Japan" CD/LP/Track Review In Tokyo, Japan
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 16, 2016
Read "Time Out" CD/LP/Track Review Time Out
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: July 9, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!