Take Me Back! The Bigtone Sessions
Harmonica player and vocalist Kim Wilson fronts the Fabulous Thunderbirds while also maintaining a solo career. Wilson has seven previous studio albums under his own name; the last being 2017’s “Blues and Boogie Vol. 1”. Wilson is winner of six Blues Music Awards. He is the 2006 “Contemporary Male Blues Artist of the Year”; three-time winner of the award for “Best Instrumentalist – Harmonica”; winner of the best “Traditional Blues Album”; and winner of “Song of the Year” for the title track off of his 2003 M.C. Records album “Lookin’ For Trouble”. In fact, both of Wilson’s previous M.C. Records releases were Grammy nominated. Wilson is also a three-time nominee for “B.B. King Entertainer of the Year” and a perennial with forty-one BMA nominations overall.
Co-produced by Wilson and Big Jon Atkinson “Take Me Back!” was recorded live in the studio, with no overdubs, by Atkinson at his Bigtone Studios. The album was recorded during various sessions so the all-star lineup includes numerous personnel changes. Included are guitarists Atkinson, Billy Flynn, Denny Michel, Rusty Zinn and Robert Welsh; pianists Welsh and Barrelhouse Chuck; bassists Kedar Roy, Greg Roberts, and Troy Sandow; and drummers Marty Dodson, Malachi Johnson, Ronnie Smith, June Core and Al West. The horns are played by Johnny Viau.
Wilson mixes his own originals with obscure covers which makes the recording especially interesting. The seven Wilson authored tracks include three outstanding vocals. Both “Play Me” and “I’m Sorry” feature guitarists Flynn and Atkinson, the late Barrelhouse Chuck on piano; and the rhythm section of bassist Roy and drummer Dodson. Flynn is featured again on “Fine Little Woman” with Welsh added on piano. The four Wilson harp instrumentals feature Atkinson on guitar; my favorites being the shuffle “Strollin’”, and “Rumblin’” played on a chromatic.
The selected covers include Jimmy Nolan’s “You’ve Been Goofing” recorded on Federal Records in 1955; “Slow Down” written and recorded by Larry Williams in 1958; Howlin’ Wolf’s shuffle “No Place to Go” from 1972; Percy Mayfield’s “Strange Things Happening” first recorded in the early 1950’s; and the title track “Take Me Back” written and recorded by Little Walter Jacobs in 1956. The most interesting songs might be the four Jimmy Rogers songs including “If It Ain’t Me” a Chess Records single in 1956; and “Money, Marbles and Chalk”, “The Last Time” and “Goin’ Away Blues” all from Rogers’ 1982 Chess album “Chicago Bound”.
I love Wilson for his harp and vocals, and also for his knowledge and enthusiasm. This is another album that will leave you hoping that he never stops recording.