Magic Slim & the Teardrops,
Bad Boy
(Blind Pig, 2012)

If you read this site, you know I'm a total sucker for Magic Slim. One of the the last of the old-time Chicago bluesmen, he brings a lifetime of authenticity to the blues, honoring the old licks that Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and Elmore James created, while always remaining his own man. He is an original and one of the most important figures in contemporary blues.

Even the best are not always at their best, though, and Bad Boy lacks the inspired, tear-your-heart-out playing and singing that Magic Slim usually delivers. Not that this is a bad album. Slim and his band are incapable of making a bad album. This time, though, they've made a slightly better-than-average album, which for this band is a letdown.

Part of the problem is in the material chosen. The disc kicks off with Eddie Taylor's "Bad Boy," a bragging song that offers a chuggling shuffle and a vocal approach that offers a chorus that goes like this:

Slim: I'm a bad boy
Chorus: He's a bad boy.
Slim: I'm a bad boy
Chorus: He's a bad boy

Repeat two more times. Done live, leading the audience in the chant, it might work, but on a studio disc, the call and response comes across as obvious and overdone, a sign of a temporary creative lapse.

Most of the songs are standard 12-bar blues tunes, so that for the first time, I detect a sameness in the rhythm section from tune to tune. Slim's playing is brilliant, though; he's always been great at taking a standard blues lick and making it his own by creating a slight variation on the original.

Up until hearing this disc, I've never been able to do anything but rave about Magic Slim, but this time, even though it hurts, I've got to qualify my praise.

Slim, you're still my favorite but next time how about a better material choice?

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

24 November 2012

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