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The Elgins – Volume 2

Devil’s Tale Music

17 tracks; 55.42 minutes

I was a little surprised to receive this CD as The Elgins I remembered produced “Heaven Must Have Sent You”, a classic piece of Motown soul. However, soul fans will need to be aware that these Elgins are a group of Norwegian players who are dedicated to recreating the classic sounds of Chicago blues before Muddy Waters plugged in and changed everything.

This is a follow-up to a 2011 CD and again saw the band travelling to the USA (San Pedro CA in this case) to record a selection of tracks from the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson 1, Leroy Carr, Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers and Big Maceo. The instrumentation is piano, harp and guitars (indicated as ‘high’ and ‘low’) and all four players sing. There are no drums or bass and the overall sound is definitely ‘lo-fi’ which I assume is the intention; listening to this CD you could be forgiven for thinking that you are listening to a 40’s recording.

One of the problems with the disc is that the very intention of recording an authentic feel makes it something of a tough listen. For example, “Sweet Lovin’ Woman” (R. McCollum) is a turgid performance with a vocal that cannot disguise a foreign accent. Leroy Carr’s “Blues Before Sunrise” is a great song and has been recorded many times, both acoustic and electric, but this version brings little new to the party, merely sounding pedestrian. SBW’s “My Little Machine” was recently revived on “Chicago Blues – A Living History” and sounded impressive; The Elgins’ version sounds strained and the guitars almost disappear in a murky mix.

On a more positive note I liked the two Little Walter covers, both instrumentals. “Sad Hours” reflects its title, the mournful harp sitting above some very gentle guitar accompaniment; “Don’t Have To Hunt” has a jaunty shuffle feel and is definitely as upbeat as it gets here.

This disc might appeal to those who enjoy pre-war blues played with an authentic feel. 

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.

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