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CD REVIEW -- Bob Corritore & Friends
GLT blues radio


Don’t Let The Devil Ride

Southwest Musical Arts Foundation Records

VizzTone Label Group

Don't Let The Devil Ride CD art

by Robin Zimmerman

Although Bob Corritore left the Windy City for Arizona in 1981, he still adheres to the Chicago adage of “I’ve got a guy for that.” But this award-winning harmonica virtuoso doesn’t have just one guy, he’s got a whole slew of blues people ready to enhance his harp playing with heartfelt vocals, slick guitar licks, danceable shuffles and more.

Corritore’s stable of singers, guitar slingers and other musicians are out in full-force on his latest CD offering, Don’t Let the Devil Ride. This 2018 release features a stellar cast of blues’ biggest names including many Chicagoans like Willie Buck, Tail Dragger, Rockin’Johnny, Bob Stroger, Oscar Wilson and others.

          Like a delicately brewed blues stew, Don’t Let the Devil Ride is steeped in tradition and aged to perfection with a heaping helping of modern inflection. The twelve tracks are the result of nine different recording sessions held between 2014 through 2017. In homage to the many musicians who made it possible, the CD is a release by “Bob Corritore and Friends.”

Corritore’s lineup of friends reads like a “who’s who” of the blues. In addition to the Chicago-based crew, he has teamed up with vocalists like Alabama Mike, Sugaray Rayford, Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry and George Bowman. His esteemed sidemen include Henry Gray, Jimi “Primetime” Smith, Junior Watson, Big Jon Atkinson and many others.

Listening to this highly satisfying mix of traditional blues, it becomes obvious that Corritore also follows another time-honored Midwest precept of never forgetting your roots. During his formative years in Chicago, he saw Muddy Waters play in his high school gymnasium and was immediately hooked on this distinctive sound. Corritore cut his teeth on Maxwell Street before making the move to various blues clubs when he came of age.

Despite being far removed from the Chicago blues scene for almost 40 years, Corritore has been instrumental in helping to bring the genre to the Arizona desert. He runs the Rhythm Room out of Phoenix and his weekly blues radio show Those Lowdown Blues has been a fixture on KJZZ for over thirty years running. He has produced or played on countless CDs. He’s also won his fair share of industry awards, nominations and accolades.

With someone of Corritore’s stature in the driver’s seat, it’s not surprising to see why Don’t Let the Devil Ride is like a fully-loaded V8 of all-around great blues!   

The CD comes out swinging with Corritore’s blazing harp providing the perfect counterpart to Delmark recording artist Willie Buck’s vocals on “Went Home This Morning.” Buck has called Chicago home since 1954 and his take on this track reflects the fact that this Mississippi-born bluesman was right in the thick of the post-war Maxwell Street blues bazaar. Guitarists Big Jon Atkinson and Mojo Mark add a South Side swagger to this Buck-penned opening number.

“Tell Me Mama” is next on the docket. Here, Cash Box Kings’ front man and former Honeyboy Edwards protégé, Oscar Wilson shows off the vocal style he developed in those old 43rd Street blues clubs. Wilson is joined by legendary keyboardist Henry Gray with Jimi “Primetime” Smith and Johnny Rapp on guitar. Corritore belts out a bang-up harp on this classic Little Walter tune.

The tempo slows down to a satisfying, Jimmy Reed-style groove on “The Glide,” written and sung by Sugaray Rayford. Like those classic blues throwbacks, Rayford lets loose about a “three- legged horse” with all sorts of sly double innuendos. Fred Kaplan is pitch-perfect on piano and Junior Watson provides some nice whammy-bar guitar finesse.

“Laundromat Blues” is the next song on the CD’s spin cycle. Here, Alabama Mike strikes the right man done-wrong note as he wails about “meeting your man down at the local laundromat.” This plaintive number is enhanced by Corritore’s mournful harp and Atkinson’s fret work along with Bob Welch (from Elvin Bishop’s band) on piano.

Corritore’s own composition, “Fork in the Road” is served up in the lip-smacking, hip-shaking Chicago blues tradition with Oscar Wilson doing another stellar turn on vocals.  He’s joined by "Primetime" Smith and Rapp on guitars with Corritore on rollicking harp and living blues legend Henry Gray (who is still performing at age 94!) providing old school piano magic.

          Lovey Dovey Lovey One” is done right by Alabama Mike on vocals and Bob Welch coming on to play guitar. Corritore’s harp work is blazing and beautiful on this Mel London penned tune made famous by Junior Wells.

The title track, “Don’t Let the Devil Ride” is given its own spin with Alabama Mike returning in full testimonial glory. Atkinson, guitarist Danny Michel and Corritore are right in sync on this slow-paced and satisfying take on the oft-covered gospel tune.

The CD circles back to its Mississippi blues roots on “Willie Mae” with Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry handling both vocals and guitar. This is fitting since this blues/gospel veteran has done double duty with stints during Chicago’s Chess Studios’ heyday and is now a popular fixture in and around Clarksdale, Mississippi.

The next track, “Steal Your Joy” finds Rayford back on vocals. Here, he dishes out a full dose of bluesy self-help messages that include lines like “keep your mind like a willow tree, learn to bend in the wind.”  This bouncy number is bolstered by Corritore’s harmonica and Chris James’ steady groove on guitar.  

George Bowman is next up to front his own composition, “I Was a Fool” where he expresses heavy regrets for walking out on his woman. The combination of Corritore on harp and Atkinson’s guitar amplifies this mournful lament.

Alabama Mike is back up next and helps put “Blues Why You Worry Me” on the map with his full-blown vocal delivery. The hard-working duo of Atkinson and Corritore keep the tempo rolling on this cut.

The CD closes with Chicago’s own Tail Dragger on “Thundering and Raining.” Tail Dragger’s joined by some other Midwest guitar fixtures‑—guitarist Rockin’ Johnny and Illinois Slim. Corritore “blows hard” as Tail Dragger mourns how natural disasters might have done his woman in. 

Bob Corritore has been lauded for his long-standing dedication in keeping the blues alive and Don’t Let the Devil Ride is no exception. On every track, he has captured today’s blues masters at the top of their craft. Like a modern-day Alan Lomax, Corritore has collaborated with these legendary musicians and preserved their distinctive sound for posterity.

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