Monday, May 09, 2005

Sonny Boy (Rice Miller)

In my search for great blues, I've found a true gem - "Sonny Boy Williamson: His Best." Part of Chess Records' 50th Anniversary Series, this CD contains 20 of Williamson's singles cut 1955-1964. (I should mention that I bought this new CD for 3 dollars + shipping from a seller on, one of the great bargain sites on the Internets).
Sonny Boy is generally considered the greatest blues harpist ever to have lived. His real name was Rice Miller, but when he borrowed the name Sonny Boy, he so overpowered and dominated with his blues that the original Sonny Boy was put into his shade. His solos and fills are always memorable, and though understated, always seem excitingly right. Several cuts on this one are classic tunes copied by just about every harmonica player who came after - like "Don't Start Me Talkin' ", "Help Me", and "Checkin' Up on My Baby". The liner notes paint a rather grim picture of Sonny Boy as a rough musician who dealt with his oppressive, racist upbringing only to end up a tough, contentious drinker. Apparently, he always felt that he was "Fattening Frogs for Snakes". He is described as a giant man with such a glare in his look that no one would think to mess with him, unless they wanted it to be "Your Funeral My Trial". Recommended without reservation.


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