Tail Dragger: Live at Rooster's Lounge

John Barron By

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Tail Dragger
Live at Rooster's Lounge
Delmark Records

For those prohibited by distance from experiencing authentic Chicago blues in a West Side club, Delmark Records provides a next-best-thing-to-being-there solution with Tail Dragger's DVD Live at Rooster's Lounge. A gravel-voiced mainstay on the Chicago scene since the 1960s, Tail Dragger belts out the blues with the phrasing and swagger of the late Howlin' Wolf. More than a mere blues stylist, Tail Dragger is an irresistible showman whose primary goal is to put a smile on the face of every paying customer.

The small but lively crowd assembled at Rooster's Lounge is as much a part of the show as the musicians. Tail Dragger is constantly working the room, pacing from table to table, testifying to his street savvy wisdom with original titles like "She's Worryin' Me," "Stop Lying" and "Be Careful." Stuffed in between the original gems are a handful of blues classics such as Wolf's "Louise" and John Lee Hooker's "I'm in the Mood."

The DVD closes with two gems from the songbook of the late harmonica great Little Walter, "Everything Gonna Be Alright" and "Blues With a Feeling." Appropriately, harmonica player Martin Lang blows his harp with stylistic acumen, harkening the spirit of the great Chicago blues legend.

Tail Dragger's relatively young band, led by guitarist and former Delmark recording artist Rockin' Johnny Burgin, is a faithful crew, having backed up the Arkansas-native shouter faithfully over the years in good times and bad. The dedication exhibited by Burgin, Lang, guitarist Kevin Shanahan, bassist Todd Fackler and drummer Rob Lorenz is evident in the tight, heads-up intros and endings; no last-minute, thrown together jam band here. Special guest Jimmy Dawkins borrows Shanahan's guitar and sits in on one tune.

Fackler and Lorenz keep the shuffles popping and the slow 12/8 grooves simmering. The bass/drum duo is selfless, graciously providing a thick cushion for Burgin, Shanahan and Lang to stretch out on.

Also available as a CD, Live at Rooster's Lounge is the follow up to Tail Dragger's 2005 My Head is Bald, Delmark's best-selling DVD to date. This release is an unpretentious, toe-tapping set from one of the more captivating blues artists around.

Tracks: Louise; Talk; Baby Please Don't Go; Talk; She's Worryin' Me; Talk; Stop Lying; Keep it to Yourself; Talk Be Careful; Talk; Wander; Talk; Bought Me a New Home; Ooh Baby Hold Me; I'm In the Mood; Everything Gonna Be Alright; Blues With a Feeling.

Personnel: Tail Dragger: vocals; Rockin' Johnny Burgin: guitar; Kevin Shanahan: guitar; Martin Lang: harmonica; Todd Fackler: bass; Rob Lorenz: drums; Jimmy Dawkins: guitar (12).

Production Notes: 75 minutes. Recorded live at 24 bit/96kHz high resolution audio on March 21, 2009 at Rooster's Lounge, Chicago, Illinois. Extras: Tail Dragger commentary, discography.

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