Buried Alive in the Blues

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There’s no question that the first wave of white Chicago musicians to take up the blues from the music’s black innovators advanced the form. These musicians (including the departed Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield) helped connect legends like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf to the white rock of Janis Joplin, Dylan and the Stones.

This live show, recorded in Chicago last October, is a celebration of that scene. It finds Barry Goldberg, Harvey Mandel, Nick Gravenites, Corky Siegel, Sam Lay and Tracy Nelson in fine playing and singing form. “Born in Chicago” is a gritty autobiographical spin by Gravenites that originally kicked off the first Paul Butterfield Blues Band album. The title track was written by Gravenites for Janis Joplin, who died the day before she was scheduled to record the vocals. “Left Handed Soul” has to be one of the most creative odes to devil-worship ever.

The material brims with the down-and-out lingo of the blues, and there’s a palpable sense of loss at the absence of departed friends. But there’s real joy in the playing — the joy that comes from being a survivor. And that’s where great blues happens, at the intersection of elation and despair.

The CD is accompanied by a DVD documentary that contextualizes the CBR band; it features interviews with the band members and such blues legends as B.B. King and Buddy Guy. The footage of Bloomfield playing with Muddy Waters and Junior Wells is nearly worth the price of admission.

 

Saturday, July 30, at the Magic Stick (4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700).

Brian J. Bowe writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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