Little Arthur Duncan Live At Rosa's Blues Lounge Delmark Records
Delmark is as much in the business of social history as in that of capturing the present-day Chicago music scene with their DVDs, and this one is no exception.
There's something downright honest about Little Arthur Duncan and the manner in which he puts out the Chicago blues, and the performance documented here makes the point in no uncertain terms. This much is apparent from the outset on his own "Leaving Mississippi," on which he sings with the vigour not of a younger man but of a man acting his age whilst making no effort to suppress his lust for life, his harmonica work exhibiting echoes of Shakey Horton. His band is right there with him, with the guitars of Illinois Slim and Rick Kreher meshing as though they were going for a first take in the Chess studio circa 1955.
Duncan isn't afraid to make himself a hostage to fortune in tackling Howlin' Wolf's "No Place To Go," though comparison between his performance and the composer's would only be facetious. Duncan probably sits down for his rendition, yet that force of life imbues the performance with a vigour all its own. It's enough also to lift his reading of "Got Love If You Want It" to a level where the listener/viewer doesn't doubt the claim for a minute. The band has that tight but loose thing going while Duncan's harmonica tells an earthily trenchant story even as it knows the value of economy before Illinois Slim nods in Hubert Sumlin's direction for the next solo.
Willie Dixon's "Little Red Rooster" gets an outing, and Duncan's bringing something fresh to it is a feat in itself. He's aided in that respect by the membership of his band, for whom a groove is not so much something they have trouble locating as something they have difficulty getting away from.
The continuing validity of the blues as an expressive musical form might just lie with its social and economic relevance, but the likes of Little Arthur Duncan and his band prove that it also comes down to a whole lot more than that, and in their avoidance of histrionics and their devotion to the form they make a potent case.
Tracks: Leaving Mississippi; Pretty Girls Everywhere; No Place To Go; Pretty Thing; I Got Love If You Want It; Mean Old Frisco Blues; I Got To Go; Little red Rooster; Young Fashioned Ways; Blues With A Feeling; Scratch My Back; 44 Blues; Bad Reputation; Back Door; I Got To Find My Baby; Blues I Got To Leave You; Trackmarks.
Personnel: Little Arthur Duncan: vocals, harmonica; Illinois Slim: guitar; Rick Kreher: guitar; Michael Azzi: bass; Twist Turner: drums. Little Al Thomas: vocal (on "I Got To Find My Baby" only)
Production Notes: 76 minutes. Recorded August 18 2007 at Rosa's Blues Lounge, Chicago, Illinois. Extras: Arthur Duncan Commentary (76 minutes; Tail Dragger DVD Trailer (1 minute 19 seconds); Carey Bell DVD Trailer (1 minute 21 seconds); Jimmy Burns DVD Trailer (1 minute 25 seconds); Mississippi Heat DVD Trailer (1 minute 27 seconds); Ad for 'Where The Music Lives' DVDs (1 minute 27 seconds)