A tribute album to Chicago blues wouldn’t be complete without an appearance by two of the city’s most beloved bluesmen, Buddy Guy and James Cotton. Both appear on the all-star recording, “Chicago Blues: A Living History - The Revolution Continues.”
More than 50 years of blues are updated by Chicago’s premier players, including Billy Boy Arnold who sings “He’s A Jelly Roll Baker.” The song is traced to the year 1942 when guitar great Lonnie Johnson recorded it on the Bluebird label.
The first collection of “Chicago Blues: A Living History” was released to worldwide acclaim in 2009. It earned a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Blues Album and inspired producer Larry Skoller to return to the studio with his stellar lineup.
Skoller says he just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with some of today’s living legends.
“What a second one would mean would be [to ask], ‘How do we add to this and how do we expand on it?’ It was clear that what we wanted to do was to get more of the people who were key in helping to pioneer the music and who are still around today,” he said.
At age 74, guitarist Buddy Guy is indeed still around and performing at his best on “First Time I Met The Blues.”
“He came in and it was unbelievable," Skoller said. "He was just so strong and singing so great, and as you can hear on the song, was, as they say, just ‘shredding’ his guitar. It was 11 o’clock in the morning and he had asked to come in the morning because that’s the time he feels at his best in the studio. And he just came in and it was fantastic. It was really electric.”
And what was James Cotton’s reaction to being onstage with everybody and doing a project like this?
“He was really excited about it and really gracious and was happy to be able to do the dueling harmonica," Skoller said. "Because, unfortunately, James Cotton can’t sing anymore but he still plays great. And, for him to be able to come in there and play dueling harmonicas and have Billy Branch sing on ‘Rocket 88’ was really a thrill for him.”
Also featured are guitarists Magic Slim and Ronnie Baker Brooks, as well as vocalists Mike Avery and Zora Young. Along with harmonica masters Billy Branch and Billy Boy Arnold, the album marks the return of guitarists Lurrie Bell, Carlos Johnson and John Primer, all backed by The Living History Band.