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Junior Wells & the Aces: Live In Boston 1966

Nic Jones By

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Here's a particularly potent exercise in musical archaeology. By the time the year of this recording rolled around, blues singer/harmonicist Junior Wells had been in the music game for nearly fifteen years, and it seems as though every one of those had been a period of learning. What's particularly interesting is that Wells elected to play this gig in the company of the Aces, the band that helped to make Little Walter famous. The resulting unit is tighter than tight, while loose enough to avoid cold precision.

"Junior's Whoop" proves it in spades, and also shows how a leavening of funk is never unwelcome when the players know where they're at. Louis Myers' guitar is on the nail, while Wells is vocally beseeching; his harmonica proves just how scintillating that modest instrument can be. It's no hype to rank him alongside the two Sonny Boys, Little Walter, Big Walter Horton and George Harmonica Smith.

There's some reaching back going on, too. "Worried Life Blues," credited to both Big Maceo and Sleepy John Estes, finds Wells reaching for a different part of his musical personality, while it might be said that the delicacy of Myers' guitar, particularly in accompaniment, was picked up by Jimi Hendrix as a facet of his underrated abilities as a blues player.

Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's "Look On Yonder's Wall" gets the kind of deft workout that would have been beyond a lot of Wells' contemporaries, but then it only goes to show that when he was of a mind to, he could reach a wider audience without compromising his musical vision. The performance is incendiary to the point where it might conceivably raise the dead, and in less than three minutes.

By contrast, "Got My Mojo Workin'" almost hits the seven-minute mark, which might mean a lot of indulgence in some hands, but not here. Myers proves how undervalued he is as a soloist, while brother Dave's bass playing and Fred Below's drums nail the pulse. As a send-off it's stronger than strong.

There would have been no justice in the world at that time, if every member of the audience wasn't smiling at the end of this gig. That's because this is the real thing. The passing of time has only made this more apparent.

Track Listing: Feelin' Good; It's A Man Down There; Worried Life Blues; Talk; Junior's Whoop; That's All Right; Talk; Look On Yonder's Wall; Talk; Messin' With The Kid; Talk; Hideaway; If You Gonna Leave Me; "Fattening Frogs For Snakes" Talk; I Don't Know; Talk; Got My Mojo Workin'; Theme.

Personnel: Junior Wells: vocals, harmonica; Louis Myers: guitar; Dave Myers: bass; Fred Below: drums.

Title: Live In Boston 1966 | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Delmark Records

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