Genuine Houserockin' Music

Various Artists

Alligator Records, 1986

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


God damnit,what a miserable day I had at work! (I have to work another job besides doing this site - being a recluse doesn't pay the cable bill.) By the time I came home, I really needed something to clear my head of the last crummy nine hours.

Fortunately, I have a secret weapon for dealing with the blues. That weapon is... the blues. The blues? Damn right.

I've often written about Alligator Records, a little label based out of Chicago which has become a sanctuary for blues artists over the last 25 years. (And no, I'm not kissing up - we don't get anything from them except an occasional e-mail and catalog.) Their 1986 sampler of their artists, Genuine Houserockin' Music, showcases 11 strong artists at their best - and is one grand introduction to both the artists and the label.

One warning, though - when one says "blues," your mind may call up images of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon or Howlin' Wolf. The performances here embody the new generation of the blues, one which embraces Bessie Smith as much as Led Zeppelin and Mahalia Jackson.

One example of this new mixture is blues legend Koko Taylor, who gained national prominence on Chess with "Wang Dang Doodle." Her contribution to this album, "Come To Mama," has tinges of gospel in her sultry voice - and frankly, it's a welcome change. The guitar lines on this one are so tasty and addictive that you'll find yourself coming back to this track often.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The same goes for Lonnie Brooks, who injects just a smidge of rock into his performance on "Don't Take Advantage Of Me." This track may not be one of Brooks' best known, but is definitely worth giving several spins. (Brooks is also one of the classiest acts I have ever had the privilege to meet - if I ever get a chance to interview him again, I owe him a drink dating back to December 1989.)

Other artists will wet some people's whistles depending on your particular tastes. I, for one, was never a big fan of Albert Collins, though the track "Blackjack" (featuring Johnny "Clyde" Copeland and Robert Cray) is probably one of the more pure blues songs on the disc). Likewise, I would have chosen a different track from Lonnie Mack other than "Satisfy Suzie," though that one has become a live favorite.

Two artists stand out in my mind on Genuine Houserockin' Music. One of them, Fenton Robinson, has a slow, soulful delivery that goes down smooth as whiskey. The featured track, "Laundry Man," is a decent effort - though I personally prefer "Somebody Loan Me A Dime." The other artist, Jimmy Johnson, was the second artist we reviewed on "The Daily Vault" way back in January. His contribution, ironically, is a Fenton Robinson-penned track, "You Don't Know What Love Is," a version that betters the original.

Closing out this collection is a previously-unreleased track from the band for whom Alligator was started - Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers. "Don't Blame Me" is a song that could even make the dead get up and dance, and is a hell of a present that they pulled out of the vaults.

To the blues purists, many of the artists on Genuine Houserockin' Music may not seem to be true blues musicians. My advice: lighten up. If anything, these artists embody the true meaning of the blues, which is not always to bum the listener out to the point of suicide. I put this album on, and by the time Son Seals or Roy Buchanan come blaring through the speakers, my day has been improved.

If you've never bought an album on Alligator, this is a great place to start. Last time I checked, it's still available at a bargain price, and it has something to please every listener. Presently there are four other volumes in this series - eventually we'll get to them all. But for now, Genuine Houserockin' Music is one hell of a handshake.

Rating: A-

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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Alligator Records, and is used for informational purposes only.