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Zora Young: Sunnyland

John Barron By

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Sunnyland is a straight-up blues release from Chicago vocalist Zora Young. With the help of guitar legend Hubert Sumlin and saxophonist/producer Sam Burckhardt, the veteran Young, who has previously recorded for Delmark Records, pays tribute to the late pianist Albert Luandrew, a.k.a Sunnyland Slim (1907-1995).

Both Sumlin and Young worked with Sunnyland, as well as Burckhardt, bassist Bob Stroger and guitarist Steve Freund. The spirit of Sunnyland is felt through two of the pianist's classic tunes, "Goin' Back to Memphis" and "Johnson Machine Gun." Pianist Barrelhouse Chuck, who studied with Sunnyland in the 1980s, is a torch bearer for the rich legacy of Chicago blues piano. His romping solos, especially on instrumentals like the jumping title track and the minor-keyed "Blues for Hubert," keep the party rolling in high gear.

Young is a bona fide blues shouter through and through; her delivery is authoritative, swinging and undeniably down home. Tunes such as "Bad Track Record," "Football Widow," "Stumbling Blocks and Stepping Stones" and "Til the Fat Lady Sings" showcase the Mississippi native's songwriting ability. Her lyrics are clever, honest and at times quite humorous.

Sumlin, who is perhaps best known for his Chess Records sideman work with Howlin' Wolf, contributes a handful of free-spirited solos and lends his cozy vocalizing to his own "You Said You Were Leaving" and "Looka Here Baby," a touching duet with Young that closes the session.

Guitarist Freund, a veteran of the Chicago and San Francisco blues scenes, delivers plenty of tasteful, reverb-heavy licks, most notably on "Goin' Back to Memphis" and "the rocked-out "Daughter of a Son-of-a-Gun."

Bruckhardt's solid arranging and the added horns of trumpeter Chuck Parrish and trombonist Steve Horne help make Sunnyland a first-class tribute to one of the great pioneers of urban blues.

Track Listing: Bad Track Record; Goin' Back to Memphis; Travelin' Light; Hubert's Groove; Football Widow; You Said You Were Leaving; Sunnyland; Johnson Machine Gun; Stumbling Blocks and Stepping Stones; Til the Fat Lady Sings; Blues for Hubert; Daughter of a Son-of-a-Gun; Looka Here.

Personnel: Zora Young: vocals; Hubert Sumlin: guitar; Steve Freund: guitar; Sam Burckhardt: tenor saxophone: Bob Stroger: bass; Barrelhouse Chuck: piano; Kenny Smith: drums; Chuck Parrish: trumpet; Steve Horne: trombone.

Title: Sunnyland | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Airway


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