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Verse Chorus Verse: Junior Wells – “Hoodoo Man Blues”

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I'm sometimes surprised at how easy cool is to fake.  Authentic cool is rare but it's vastly more potent than imitation. Being cool and acting cool are about as far apart as the north is from the south.  The heat of genuine cool lights up the sky while the best of the impostors are lucky to light a small room.  The intangible quality that separates the real and fake is undefinable… right up until the point when we encounter it.  We'll struggle to explain it but we'll all know when we've been in its presence.

The irrepressible Junior Wells is one of those who carried the torch of coolness and set Chicago on fire with a charisma rarely heard before or sense.  Wells is revered as one of the great harp players in the history of blues and with good reason, but ending the conversation there is like talking about what a great pitcher Babe Ruth was.  Ruth did more than pitch (714 HRs more than pitch) and Wells was more than just a great harp player.

Snag a copy of his classic Hoodoo Man Blues, recorded for Delmark in 1965 and listen to the title track.  Wells exudes charisma and confidence.  Yes, he has a great harp style and he puts it on display, but that's not the story on this song (or most of the rest of the album). 

What sets this apart is the heat of one man's explosive personality, and you better have that kind of intensity if you plan on relegating the legendary Buddy Guy to the background.  Guy provides great groove and rhythm but he gives Wells wide berth to lead this band and Wells takes hold of that and never lets go.  When you listen to "Hoodoo Man Blues" you don't hear effort being expended.  You don't hear a man struggling to play the blues.  You just hear the unmistakable sound of Chicago blues being channeled through one of its great vessels in pure, unadulterated tones and cool doesn't get any more real than that.

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About Josh Hathaway

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