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Leo Hull - Bootleggin’ The Blues

9 tracks; 34:57

There really are only two kinds of Texas shuffles: fast ones and slow ones. Leo Hull & The Texas Blues Machine cooks both to perfection, simmering and stirring with equal facility and serving them up hot with a side of Rock & Roll and a dash of Country & Western on their new disc Bootleggin’ The Blues. With Buddy Whittington, formerly of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, on guitar, Ron DiIulio on keyboards, Jerry Hancock on bass, Larry Randall on sax, and Chuck “Popcorn” Lowden and Warren Dewey alternating on drums, the Machine is a well-oiled Longhorn Caddy rolling into Bluesville on a Saturday night with a trunk full of homemade blues.

The band kicks up plenty of dust on two “road” songs, “Road” and “Road Hard,” with hard-chugging rhythms and Hull’s wry delivery of his roadhouse research results. Hull is proud of his Texan musical heritage and name-checks Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny Winter and other Texas icons of the blues but he gives it up for other elders of the blues, namely Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters, in the heartfelt tribute “Bootleggin’ Blues.” From Chicago to Austin and all points in between, the electric blues has inspired musicians the world over and Leo Hull celebrates the fact that his blues are distilled from the original recipe but are not exactly the same.

Leo Hull is originally from Oklahoma and it shows in the way he draws out a lyric with his laid back vocal delivery. He may be a Texas legend but it’s clear his inner clock is running on Tulsa time. Hull stretches the words beyond the beats and chord changes, making a familiar form fresh and surprising. He makes you hang on every syllable of his words, drawing you into the action. Hull gives his band plenty of space too and they are a tight ensemble. Guitars, saxophone, and keyboards share the sonic landscape creating layers of sound on many tunes including “Blow Torch Baby” where the sax is blaring under popping guitar licks and bouncing piano runs. “Between You And Me” is a slow shuffle that gives keyboard player Ron DiIulio plenty of opportunity to strut his stuff, Larry Randall soars on sax in “Running Away Again,” and there are guitars-a-plenty on “Pistol #69” which also has some amusing lyrics from Hull.

I have complaints about this disc, but none about the music. The CD cover depicts Leo Hull by himself, with a road-worn guitar case, on a country byway in the middle of nowhere. It gives the impression this might be a solo acoustic, or possibly a bare bones disc. Even on the inside Leo is pictured holding mostly acoustic guitars, which unless they’re buried in the mix, don’t appear on the disc. This is electric Texas blues and letting people know on the cover might help sales. I must say, I did not expect the music I heard when I first played this disc. Instead I got a raucous case of the blues.

There probably isn’t a case of the blues that a Texas shuffle can’t cure anyway. You want world peace? Send Leo Hull and the Texas Blues Machine to the UN. Send them to the Middle East. Send them to Capitol Hill to lay down the boogie in the rotunda. Who can resist the laid back groove, boogie woogie piano, Leo Hull’s charm and Buddy Whittington’s slinky solos? Bootleggin’ The Blues rocks and bops, percolates and pops, stings, swings, sings and all kinds of things. Its 35 minutes of Heaven, Hell, and Houston will get you moving, get you smiling, and it will quench your thirst for some bootleg blues.

Reviewer Jim Kanavy is the greatest guitar player in his house. He has been reviewing albums in his head for 30 years and in print since 2008, and is deeply committed to keeping the blues alive and thriving. For more information visit

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