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The Elgins - Back To Chicago

Devil’s Tale Music


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From the spare and laidback grooves here you would be led to believe these are long lost tracks from the 40’s and 50’s blues masters that were recently unearthed. Would you believe it’s the work of Norwegian musicians? Well you better start believing. These guys have the sound, timing and every nuance down to a “T”. You would be hard pressed to differentiate between special guest Johnny Dyer’s vocals and those of the Norwegian vocalists. This is to say they have the inflections of their African-American heroes pretty much down pat. The spare arrangements harken back to the golden years of the Chicago sound, ably abetted by small tube amps and vintage equipment to give the desired atmosphere. A small drum kit is utilized to replicate the simpler percussion of days gone by.

The sixteen cover songs that make up this CD place a heavy emphasis on Muddy Waters and his band mates Little Walter Jacobs and Jimmy Rogers. Also represented are Rice Miller, John Brim and others. Little Walter clocks in with nearly one third of the tunes, at five. Three being instrumentals, the meat and potatoes of his rightly deserved reputation as the harmonica player that all others are held up to. Mark Bukich does Walter proud as he captures the essence of the master in his harp playing. Anyone who can hold his own on Walter’s signature song “Juke” deserves to be revered.

Fredrik Zahl Marken’s slide guitar on Robert Nighthawk’s “Anna Lee” comes off as the “Real McCoy”, and on every other track he graces it with. Close attention is paid to detail, as vocal asides are used in Rice Miller’s “Keep It To Yourself”, to replicate his off-handed-ness. Piano player Oyvind Stolefjell conjures up the ghost of Sunnyland Slim’s in his “lazy” stylings. The other guitarist Mark Mumea also adds the Chicago vibe along with Fredrik. Muddy Waters gets the Norway treatment on three of his lesser known songs, but they shine just as bright as his more familiar tunes would have.

Producer Mark Mumea deserves just as much credit as his fellow musicians for getting the playing, atmospherics and arrangements just right. Play this anonymously for your friends and watch in amazement as they pick their brains to determine what time frame this recording originates from.

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

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