FREE Subscription - For more information  CLICK HERE



Back To Reviews page

Billy Boy Arnold - Sings Big Bill Broonzy

Electro-Fi Records


During his youth Billy Boy admired Big Bill, at one point met, and a few years later asked Big Bill to make a record with him, to which he declined. Big Bill referred him to The Aces who he felt had a more contemporary sound that suited Billy Boy’s style better. Having followed and admired Big Bill as one of his heroes, there is no one better to pay tribute in a record. Billy Boy has a warmer voice than the originator, who had a big booming voice, but he delivers an entertaining representation of Big Bill’s music. Big Bill’s finger-picking guitar style can’t be duplicated, but the band here provides a good backdrop. Fifteen songs of his catalogue of hundreds are represented here. Billy Boy is probably best known through songs of his covered by The Yardbirds and others: “I Ain’t Got You” and “I Wish You Would”. Billy recorded these during the “hey-day” of Chicago’s VeeJay Records in the fifties. He was also Bo Diddley’s harmonica player for a short while until he decided he’d rather be a front man.

Most of the songs are accompanied by Billy Boy’s harmonica, guitar, mandolin and minimal percussion to capture the period. Curiously percussionist Rick Sherry adds clarinet to “Going Back To Arkansas” to give it an old-time jazz feel. The song most familiar to a more recent audience, “Key To The Highway”, is known more in its electric interpretation via Little Walter, Freddie King, Eric Clapton and many others. It’s given a more faithful treatment here that features some fittingly mournful harmonica by Billy Boy.

A bit of backwoods poetry is served up in “Looking Up At Down”: “I’m just like Joe’s turkey, I can’t do nothing but wobble, I have to lean up against a fence just so I can gobble”. “Rider Rider Blues” is a variation of ”C.C. Rider”, a song in the repertoire of many of the “songsters” of the twenties and thirties. Most of the songs are done-up in an “easy rollin’” style: “It Was Just A Dream”, “I Love My Whiskey”, “Living On Easy Street”, etc.. “When I Get To Thinkin’” includes a line that Sonny Boy Williamson II used as a song title:” fattening frogs for snakes”.

Probably the second most recognizable song of Big Bill’s is also included here, “It Was Just A Dream”, a song done by Louisiana Red in a few versions. Billy Flynn contributes some jazz guitar to “Just Got to Hold You Tight”, parts of which sound curiously like the melody to “Baby Let Me Follow You Down”, a traditional folk song popularized by Bob Dylan on his first album.

Taken as either an introduction to Big Bill Broonzy or a Billy Boy Arnold album, it works fine on both levels. The acoustic guitar playing of producer Eric Noden; electric guitar and mandolin by Billy Flynn; washboard, percussion and clarinet by Rick Sherry and acoustic bass by Beau Sample provide the perfect cushion for Billy Boy’s smooth voice and harmonica. This record enhances the music without obscuring the original songs.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

To submit a review or interview please contact:

For more information please contact:


Home  |  Contact  |  Submit Your Blues News - Advertise with Blues Blast Magazine
 Copyright - Blues Blast Magazine
2010    Design by: Moxi Dawg Design