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Music Album reviews with Tony Burke: November 2, 2020

MIDNIGHT FLYER
Featuring Maggie Bell
Singsong Music
★★★★

Lead by Scottish blues belter Maggie Bell and formed in 1980, Midnight Flyer cut this set at Ringo Starr’s Starling Studios for Led Zeppelin’s Swansong label to which Maggie was already contracted.

She had fronted UK college-circuit crowd-pullers Stone The Crows while band members were drawn from Streetwalkers, Whitesnake, Savoy Brown and Foghat.

They delivered an album’s worth of driving blues/rock, with Mick Ralphs of Mott The Hoople producing.

Touring Europe and opening at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1981 for blues giants Albert Collins, John Lee Hooker and Magic Slim, they also toured the US opening for AC/DC on their For Those About To Rock tour.

When John Bonham died, Led Zeppelin lost interest in Swansong, and Midnight Flyer disbanded.

Maggie’s description of the band as playing “good, healthy rock'n'roll with lots of energy” aptly describes this very welcome re-issue.
 

 

KIM WILSON
The Big Tone Sessions
M.C. Records
★★★★

The return of the Fabulous Thunderbirds’ vocalist and harmonica player after a three-year recording gap its good to hear Kim Wilson has lost none of his raw, blues harmonica power.

Born in California and learning the blues ropes in San Francisco from Charlie Musselwhite, John Lee Hooker and George “Harmonica” Smith, Wilson formed the TBirds in Austin, Texas in 1974 where they supported Muddy Waters, Jimmie Rogers, Big Walter Horton, Eddie Taylor, Pee Wee Crayton and Lowell Fulson.

On this set he is supported by ace white blues artists including guitarist Billy Flynn, the late Barrelhouse Chuck on keyboards, Big John Atkinson, Rusty Zynn and Kid Andersen.

1950s R&B nuggets including Jimmy Rogers’ Money Marbles And Chalk, Jimmy Nolan’s Strollin’, Larry Williams’ Slow Down and Howlin’ Wolf’s How Many More Years are the stand-outs of a powerhouse blues set.
 

 

 
JOHNNY NICHOLAS
Mistaken Identity
Valcour Records
★★★★

Johnny Nicholas grew up in Rhode Island listening to blues, R&B and country before hitch-hiking and hopping freight trains in search of the music he loved.

In Southwest Louisiana he listened to Cajun music by Nathan Abshire: in Chicago he played blues with Big Walter Horton, Boogie Woogie Red and Robert Lockwood before joining western swing favourites Asleep At The Wheel.

He toured with Chicago bluesmen Snooky Pryor and Johnny Shines and has recorded eight solo albums.

Nowadays he is busy running a restaurant but that hasn’t stopped him waxing another fine set of blues (She Stole My Mojo), Tex-Mex (Guadalupe’s Prayer), Honky Tonk (Spark To A Flame) and rockabilly (Tight Pants).

Highway 190 recalls his days in south west Louisiana, and the title track is pure New Orleans R&B. He’s now a blues and roots music icon.

 

 

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