Your Complete Guide to the Chicago Blues Scene
BIG JON ATKINSON & BOB CORRITORE
House Party at Big Jon’s
By Terry Abrahamson
I have been crushed by the Blues.
Blues veteran Bob Corritorre is always - as we say in Chicago - “autennic.”
But the unfathomable depth of House Party at Big Jon’s threatens to reduce mere authenticity to something akin to the film Cadillac Records. It’s like there’s blood in the vinyl.
From the first drum hit of “Goin’ Back to Tennessee,” the weight came down, pushing me deeper and deeper, note by note, into a molasses-thick ocean of mystery and history, all the way down to an
enter-through-the-alley joint in the East St. Louis of the Mariana Trench of the Blues.
How Big Jon Atkinson, whose guitar swings, swaggers and sweats with Corritorre’s harp harem for 14 of 16 unrelenting tracks, could have recorded all this - in his house, by the way - at the ripe old age of 26 is staggering. Has there ever been another Blues guy who could play with that feeling, that understanding, that sense of this music? At that age?
But never one baptized in the nectar of the Bob Corritorre bluesberry.
And that voice!
I heard Otis Spann; I heard Jack Dupree; I swear I even heard the last-call rasp of Wynonie Harris, along with the distant echoes of a dozen other dead guys only dead guys have heard, all sharing the bill in Big Jon's "How the Hell Does He Sing Like That?" Revue.
Raw spirits. Rare spirits. All well done, served dredged from the roots, dragged through his soul and shake-shake-shakin' in a flickering streetlight filtered through the dark prism of the Blues.
I never knew my soul had a mouth until Big Jon made it water with lines like “She’s my creole baby with the butterscotch skin.”
And then I read the liner notes and it all made sense.
To sing like this, Big Jon Atkinson traded the souls of everyone who worked on this record to the Devil. Except for Bob Corritorre, whose soul was already prominently displayed on Satan’s mantle from an earlier deal involving Bob’s hair.
But wait, there's....Moore, thanks to a little Slim Harpo (a.k.a. James Isaac Moore) from Chicago's own Willie Buck (“I’m A King Bee”). We even get an exorcism, as Bob and Big Jon rassle down another Chicago ringer, Dave Riley, and pull out a sharecropper's ghost (“Mississippi Plow”).
Tomcat Courtney (“Mojo in My Bread”) and Alabama Mike (“Mojo Hand”) also shine with a double dose of mojo. All the playing is right on to deliver Bob and Big Jon's "these is all the instruments we could afford" sound.
Bob Corritorre is always a treat, always a luminous journey. From the gritty blues clubs of Chicago where he learned to blow blues harp, to his own club -- The Rhythm Room in Phoenix -- to the radio airwaves and recording studio where he documents historical blues players, Corritore is a blues man to the bone. Autennic.
I've loved a lot of his stuff.
But this record loved me!
It held me, and breathed heavy into my neck, and danced me to the dark end of every street from Chicago to Mississippi and back.
And, like love, it crushed me.
Terry Abrahamson won a Grammy by writing songs for Muddy Waters. He helped launch George Thorogood’s career and created John Lee Hooker’s first radio commercial, which are just a few of his accomplishments. Terry also is a playwright. He and partner Derrick Procell are currently writing songs with Mud Morganfield, Nellie “Tiger” Travis, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, Eddie Shaw and Big Llou Johnson. Author of the photography book, In The Belly of The Blues – Chicago to Boston to L.A. 1969 to 1983 -- A Memoir, Terry can be found at Chicago Blues Fest in the Willie Dixon Blues Heaven tent autographing copies.