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Music Review: Delmark’s 55 Years of Blues

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Who better to lead off this great CD than Junior Wells? And who better than line up as Number 2 than Sleepy John Estes? Both these people were significant parts of Bob Koester’s life. If you’re not familiar with Bob, I recently wrote about him, as well as referred to him in other Delmark reviews I’ve done.

Junior Wells was one bluesman who personified Chicago Blues, plus he recorded for Bob’s Delmark label in Chicago. He has a blues history that will keep you busy reading for weeks, so rather than re-invent the wheel, go do your homework.

The second on the roster, Sleepy John Estes was a Delta bluesman who recorded some blues back when there were records, and those records spun around on a turntable at 78-rpm (78 revolutions per minute), which means they were the really old stuff, Prewar, as that blues era is named. During the 1960s Blues Revival, Bob Koester was the guy who “found” Sleepy John Estes back in his homestate. Like Son House and Skip James and a host of others, Sleepy John made the rounds of the major blues festivals, including the Newport Festival which brought fans in droves, mostly college and college-age young people in search of the authentic blues and folk music.

Along with the aforementioned, there’s a great cross-section of names that will dig into your memory, including Detroit Jr., JB Hutto, Big Joe Williams, Roosevelt Sykes, Steve Freund, Otis Rush, Speckled Red, and Jimmy Burns. Several other prominent names round out the performers on this CD.

More than an hour of music, 17 cuts of good Chicago Blues.

And to add to your pleasure, there’s also a one-hour DVD that includes some current great Chicago blues assets. Tail Dragger opens and closes the DVD, with some exceptional talent in between. These are some of the top names in live Chicago area blues these days. One exceptional performance is that done by Jimmy Burns, whose second guitarist will blow you away. And I certainly don’t mean to short shrift any of the other talent on this DVD, because they’re all the most asked-for names in Chicago blues today.

And just think: You don’t have to mix your own tape. Delmark has gone and done it!

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