Willie "Big Eyes" Smith,
Way Back
(Hightone, 2006)

Willie Smith's career goes way back to Bo Diddley's "Diddy Wah Diddy." But he looks pretty good on his CD sleeve pictures, and he sounds even better.

At 71, Smith has a lot of energy. He swings on vocals and harp on songs like "Read Way Back" and Sonny Boy Williamson II's "Don't Start Me Talkin'." Smith sings like a man who has seen a lot, but still can feel the blues. He gives them a slight humorous touch on his own "I Don't Trust You Man" and "Woman's World." He varies his harp work, at times using an "open" sound, and at others a "wah-wah" effect.

Producer Bob Corritore takes over on harp while Smith plays drums and sings on two cuts. Smith played them with Muddy Waters, among others. Smith's son, Kenny "Beady Eyes" Smith, is on drums on all the other songs but one.

One song, "Blues & Trouble" has just Smith singing and blowing harp accompanied by Bob Margolin on guitar. Margolin's acoustic slide work gives a nice Delta feel. There are other guest guitarists on the CD, and the legendary pianist Pinetop Perkins appears on all except two of the 11 tracks.

Smith has won seven W.C. Handy awards and has been nominated many times for a Grammy. The heyday of the Chicago blues may be gone, but Smith proves they still have a lot of life.

by Dave Howell
28 April 2007

Buy it from Amazon.com.