East Side Slim
Magic Slim and The Teardrops - Bad Boy - Blind Pig, 2012
Magic Slim and The Teardrops – Bad Boy – Blind Pig, 2012
What can be said (or written) about Magic Slim at this point that hasn't already been said; the man and his band have achieved legendary status within the blues world, and deservedly so.
Magic Slim (born Morris Holt in Torrence, Mississippi more than a few years ago…) has been performing his brand of take-no-prisoners blues for the better part of 5 decades now. Yes, Slim has slowed a bit in recent years, scaling back his touring schedule, but the man is well into his 70s and has earned a bit of a break, don't you agree? But get Magic Slim in front of a boisterous crowd and wait for him to tug down the brim of his hat; you know the show is ON at that point. Slim's shows are all about grooves, energy and emotion, and The Teardrops never disappoint.
Bad Boy marks Magic Slim's 20th Anniversary with the Blind Pig label, and is his 11th release with the Pig. Slim also recorded for several other labels in previous years, dating back to the mid-1960s. While the members of the Teardrops have rotated in and out over the years, they always perform to the standards required by Magic Slim – it's his sound and his band, make no mistake about it. On Bad Boy, the Teardrops are comprised of longtime foil Jon McDonald on guitar and 2nd vocals, Andre Howard playing bass and singing, and BJ Jones knocking the skins and singing.
There are no surprises on Bad Boy, nothing ground-breaking, and for longtime fans of The Teardrops that's as it should be. The disk features Magic Slim and The Teardrops' patented rough and ready sound, declamatory vocals, and that all-powerful groove. It's a very real joy to spin this disk, and when you're feeling a jones for the real blues, reach out for Bad Boy - you will not be disappointed.
The Songs: (songwriting credits in parentheses)
1. Bad Boy – (Eddie Taylor)
--You may have noticed that I used the word groove a couple of times previously. Well, this tune is the epitome of that groove. This one wouldn't sound out of place on one of Lil' Ed's albums, especially with the background vocals of the Teardrops during the chorus.
2. Someone Else Is Steppin' In – (Denise LaSalle)
--It might seem strange at 1st glance to think of Slim covering this tune, one so closely associated with Denise LaSalle (although dozens of artists have covered the tune), but also remember the definitive version performed by the late Z.Z. Hill. I like the rawness of Magic Slim's version, recasting the tune into the Teardrop mold. Andre Howard shares lead vocals on this song and he acquits himself very well (if making the age/coarseness on Slim's voice a bit more apparent…)
3. I Got Money – (Emery Williams aka Detroit Jr.)
--You just can't go wrong with the under recognized Detroit Jr. – talk about a man who knew a groove. This is an up-tempo shuffle featuring loads of stinging guitar, with Slim telling you about his success at the track – and what he intends to do with it!
4. Sunrise Blues – (Morris Holt aka Magic Slim)
--This is the 1st of Slim's own tunes on the CD, and the depth of the groove here is discernable upon the 1st few notes. You feel the emotion here; it's a very real physical force acting on your head and heart (and maybe some lower-down areas as well…). Only two words need apply here – Blues Power.
5. Girl What You Want Me To Do – (copyright controlled)
--Nothing fancy here, folks. Just a little old mid-tempo shuffle riding deep in the pocket, with plenty of Slim's slashing, jagged lead lines for good measure. Yep, that's all…and it really doesn't get much better than that for this old shuffle hound; East Side Slim loves a shuffle.
6. Hard Luck Blues – (Roy Brown)
--The Teardrops move into deep blues territory here, working a hard slow blues groove. It's a nice bit of song sequencing after the previous batch of up-tempo tunes, and works to grab your full attention. Well, so does the blues mastery of Slim and his band. You truly believe the trouble Slim has seen, you feel his pain. Beautiful stuff, man; beautiful stuff.
7. Gambling Blues – (Morris Holt)
--Here's the opposite take on the previous gambling-themed tune, I Got Money. In "Money", Slim was the winner. This time, Slim's gambling has taken a negative turn. He lost his money gambling, then lost his woman, then lost his clothes…he lost it all. Musically, this is a mid-tempo shuffler with nice two-guitar interplay from Slim and Jon McDonald.
8. Champagne And Reefer – (McKinley Morganfield aka Muddy Waters)
--Slim and The Teardrops tackle one of Muddy Waters' chestnuts, and while it's got a solid groove, it's awfully tough to measure up to Mud's version of this tune. This isn't a miss-step at all, just one that might have been better off left for the bandstand.
9. How Much More Long – (J.B. Lenoir – the noir rhymes with oar)
--Wow, it sounds so different to hear one of Lenoir's tunes sung by a male with a voice of a much deeper register. For those unaware, J.B.'s singing voice was quite high, especially early on in his career. That said, it sounds great hearing someone keeping Lenoir's music alive, and The Teardrops rip it up here. Deep grooves, jagged (sharp!) guitar, and everyone on background vocals on the chorus. This one begs to be experienced in-person.
10. Matchbox Blues – (Albert King)
--The tune Matchbox Blues goes back much farther than Albert King, to at least as far back as Blind Lemon Jefferson, but Slim's version is definitely based on Albert King's version. It sounds much like King Albert's version, if more raw and jagged in place of King's power and bends. Did I mention that it grooves?
11. Older Woman – (Lil' Ed Williams)
--It's not hard to notice the Magic Slim and The Teardrop influence in Lil Ed and The Blues Imperials' sound; it's most definitely present. So why not return the favor and cover one of Lil' Ed's tunes? That's exactly what we have here, minus the slide work of Lil' Ed Williams. This is another of those deep mid-tempo shuffle-groovers, the type that makes it impossible to resist the call to move and bob and shake your stuff. Slim replaces Lil' Ed's slide notes with monstrous bends, and it works exceptionally well. Slim likes older women, 'cause younger women just don't understand. You know that's right.
12. Country Joyride – (Morris Holt)
--Magic Slim and The Teardrops are typically good for at least one rockin', groovin' instrumental per album, and the guys waited until the end to lay it on us here. Lyrics would just have gotten in the way…this thing smokes! Take Freddie King, Hound Dog Taylor and Albert Collins, throw 'em all in a bag, and this is what might come out. It's a rockin' groovy twanger with loads o' soul – what a great way to sign off - leave the people wanting more!
Magic Slim and The Teardrops remind me of the best kinds of steak. Nothing too fancy or pretentious, always extremely satisfying and leaving you thinking about the next steak to grace your plate. Slim's music has stood the test of 5 decades and is as strong as ever. Yes, his voice is a bit more coarse than when he was in his 40s and 50s, but he sounds strong and vibrant and his blues message is completely undiluted. Bad Boy is a fine album, with The Teardrops sounding as strong as ever (the addition of Jon McDonald several years back was a great sensational move.) The sounds on Bad Boy make you think Slim might have another 30 years of blues bluster in him; let's all hope that's true. Alright, it's time to rate this, well, bad boy – East Side Slim is awarding an STLBluesometer rating of 4.00 to Magic Slim and The Teardrops "Bad Boy."
For more information concerning Magic Slim and The Teardrops, see the following websites:
Lee Howland - aka East Side Slim