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CD REVIEW -- Bob Corritore & Friends
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Bob Corritore & Friends

Do the Hip-Shake Baby!!

VizzTone Label Group

Bob Corritore & Friends Hip-Shake CD

By Robin Zimmerman

Harmonica ace Bob Corritore is at it again! Hot on the heels of his highly-acclaimed 2018 release, Don’t Let the Devil Ride, he’s back with an equally compelling CD featuring the finest singers, guitar slingers, keyboard tinglers, and legendary musicians in the business.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed Corritore’s long-running musical career and the many accolades he’s received. Although Corritore now calls the desert Southwest home, he’s a Chicago boy who came up during the golden age of Windy City harp players.

On Do the Hip-Shake Baby! Corritore perfectly captures the Chicago vibe during this time frame. It’s easy to picture him strutting out in a sharkskin suit and blasting some of the R & B flavored blues, soul and rock & roll that were so prevalent in the late sixties. But, the beauty of this CD is the fact is that it shifts, shakes and changes shapes on every single track. It is Corritore’s masterful, versatile harmonica that ties all the music together.

Do the Hip- Shake Baby! is the 14th album of Corritore’s illustrious career and it’s a fun romp down his musical memory lane. Corritore is right on the money when he calls this his “Harmonica-a-Go-Go” album. From start to finish it makes you want to break out those white dancing boots or pointy-toed shoes to cut a rug with Corritore and company.

The CD kicks off with a conga beat and Mighty Joe Milsap belting out vocals on “Shake Your Hips.” This earthy number showcases Corritore’s swamp-like, driving harp and Milsap’s mighty vocals. “Shake Your Hips” is further enhanced with a star turn by Milsap’s regular band, the Fremonts. Billing themselves as purveyors of “Gulf Coast R & B” and vintage-Americana, the CD’s retro vibe gets rocking and rolling with these cool cats who “put the song before the solo.”

One of Corritore’s favorite collaborators, Alabama Mike, returns on the second track, “Gonna Tell Your Mother.” This rollicking number has a shuffling ‘50s style beat and delicious doo-wop type backup vocals by Jimi “Primetime” Smith and Chicago’s very own Willie Buck.  After his smoldering swamp-flavored turn on the first track, Corritore effortlessly segues into rocking, bopping harp player on “Gonna Tell Your Mother.”  He comes out with some sizzling solos, which conjure up images of a hyper-active harpist cavorting around the stage in front of a slew of swooning bobbysoxers.

They take it down to a slow and satisfying Jimmy Reed groove on a cover of his “Bitter Seed,” which features the indomitable Bob Stroger on bass. Making this track even sweeter is the fact that Chicago-based blues vocalist, Oscar Wilson takes the lead on “Bitter Seed.” The Cashbox King is right on the money and more than up to the task of handling Mr. Reed’s material.  

On “The Twist” 94-year old Henry Gray is on his game with a rave-up for the ages. The ageless Gray sings, tickles the ivories and plays with the passion of someone who has sparkled on stage for over seven decades. Corritore’s harp provides the perfect foil for Gray’s take on the classic dance number that will get you twistin’ on the floor.

While Gray showed no signs of slowing his row, the next track takes it down a notch for a mournful Mississippi vibe on “You Better Slow Down.”  Fittingly, Delta blues legend, Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry is on hand to draw the listener into his lament on the consequences of fast-living and skirt chasing.  Corritore again hits on all harmonica cylinders with some stellar solo work.  

Alabama Mike returns in a different incarnation for “Worried Blues” where he belts out a nuanced narrative of bad luck and trouble that runs the gamut from perfectly-timed cries to “aw shucks” spoken word delivery. This man is worried!

Alabama Mike might be going the solo route in his story, but this song is a great example of an ensemble performing at peak level. There’s ring leader Corritore on harp and the brilliant Bob Stroger on bass. This dynamic duo is joined by two of the most called upon performers on the CD. We’re talking Johnny Rapp on guitar and keyboardist Fred Kaplan, who both contribute greatly to all the songs they play on. 

While this entire CD features top-notch talent, the seventh track features the “Real Deal” in all his blues singing, guitar-slinging, Muddy Waters band member glory.  “Love Deep as the Ocean” finds John Primer in top-form, with his stinging, Muddy style licks and his fine, expressive voice, as he delves into a memorable rendition from Mr. Morganfield’s Woodstock album, along with Corritore channeling Paul Butterfield.

The spotlight’s on Sugaray Rayford on the next cut, “Trying to Make a Living.” Here, Rayford shouts, screams, whoops and adds the vocal spark that makes this track flat-out fun, despite its down-and-out title. Junior Watson comes aboard to add some inspired guitar licks to this swinging little number.

The next track summons up the slow and satisfying soul vibes of the mid-sixties. On “Stand By Me” (not the Ben E. King classic) The Andy T Band with Anson Funderburgh, join Alabama Mike for a spine-tingling rendition in the best tradition of tender, soulful ballads made famous by Sam Cooke, Percy Sledge, Otis Redding and others.

While Slim Harpo influenced a slew of British musicians ranging from the Rolling Stones to the Yardbirds, it’s obvious that he also made his mark on Mr. Corritore. On “I’m Gonna Keep What I’ve Got,” Corritore’s harp summons up Harpo’s good-time brand of blues. He’s supported once again by Mighty Joe Milsap and the Fremonts, comprised of Patrick Skog on guitar, Tony Tomlinson on guitar/bass and Alan West on drums and percussion.

The crew circles back to another Chicago connection on the next track. “I’ve Got the World in a Jug” was penned by Johnnie Mae Dunson Smith who was a key force during the early Chicago blues scene. Here, her son, Jimi “Primetime” Smith comes on to add a dash of Maxwell Street grittiness that would do his musical mentor, Jimmy Reed, proud!

Alabama Mike is joined by Phil Hendricks on harmonies for the short but sweet “Few More Days” This toe-tapping tune about time on earth leads into the final song of the CD that’s focused on eternity. On “Keep the Lord with You” Sugaray Rayford gives an impassioned performance complete with soaring harmonica solos and some reverent guitar work by Kid Ramos and Johnny Main. Rayford urges his bandmates to “Testify!” as they solo to save their souls.

Do the Hip-Shake Baby! was produced by Corritore, Clark Rigsby and Kid Andersen and is the compilation of recording sessions spanning from 2016 through 2018. It was mixed by Andersen at the famed Greaseland Studios in San Jose, CA. The impressive ensemble cast featured on various tracks include some of the best keyboardists, drummers, guitarists, bass players and vocalists in the business.

You can get “hip” to the entire crew who made this brilliant CD possible via the liner notes on Do the Hip-Shake Baby!

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