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Mac Arnold’s Blues Revival - Live at the Grey Eagle

Vizztone Label Group and Plantation #1 Productions

10 songs; 54:44 minutes

Styles: Traditional Electric Blues, Classic Chicago Blues Covers

Upon hearing the word “revival,” one might imagine an enormous tent, crowd, and “altar call.” As dozens of people rush forward to profess their faith, whether for the first or hundredth time, one feels a presence so powerful that it’s impossible to ignore! Chicago blues veteran and South Carolina resident Mac Arnold taps into this presence, and his unshakable faith in blues music by presenting his “Blues Revival: Live at the Grey Eagle.” The first five songs are performed by Mac Arnold and Plate Full O’Blues. Accompanying him in the second half of the CD, where the blues rocket really takes off, is the “Muddy Waters Reunion Band” featuring such mavens as “Steady Rollin’” Bob Margolin, “Fabulous” Kim Wilson and the late Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. Out of ten renditions at this live concert, several are covers. However, listeners likely won’t mind because Bob Margolin in this album’s liner notes states: “The Chicago Blues set delivers not only some classic songs and playing, but the raw, urgent fire that is as much an essential part of that style as the old riffs. We were entertainers on a bandstand in 2010, not a museum exhibit.” That said, here are three of the best numbers from Mac Arnold’s Blues Revival, original or not:

Track 2: “Back Bone and Gristle”-- Composed by Arnold and his Plate Full O’Blues band, this is his ode to his tenacious father. Mac pulls no punches with his aged but broiling vocals, and neither does Max Hightower on piano! This danceable mid-tempo stomp is just too much fun for a song about a man who “taught us manners and respect” and ripostes Mac’s backtalk with “Speak once--think twice!” instead of a whipping.

Track 5: “Ghetto Blue”--This outstanding autobiographical track is the finest on this CD. Our lead vocalist recounts his life and sugarcoats nothing: “I used to live in Chicago long years ago. I never will forget all the hard time living in the wind and snow….” Eventually meeting such icons as A.C. Reed, Muddy Waters, Tyrone Davis and Buddy Guy, Mac fondly remembers his other (now-departed) comrades: “I thank God for saving me and letting me grow old.” This artist has sung and lived the blues for more than half a century, and “Ghetto Blue” proves and re-lives it.

Track 9: “Big Boss Man”—drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith performs lead vocals on this masterful Jimmy Reed cover. One can picture Big Eyes’ protagonist making big, goofy faces behind his supervisor’s back as he jeers: “Well, you ain’t so big--you just tall, that’s all.” Check out the wicked Margolin guitar and Wilson harmonica solos smack-dab in the middle of this harangue.

The point of any revival is to bring something back to life, but the Blues never died. What Mac Arnold’s Blues Revival truly rekindles is the classic Chicago blues sound, and more importantly, fans’ love for it!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 32 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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