Hound Dog Taylor And The Houserockers

Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers

Alligator Records, 1971


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


What would make an artist so special that someone would found a record label to record them?

Back in 1971, transplanted Chicagoan (and, from the few times he and I talked, a real nice guy) Bruce Iglauer founded Alligator Records to record a little three-piece blues band, Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers. And for that, fans of the genre should be lining up to shake his hand. Taylor's devil-may-care style of playing and his band's looseness is what made them popular, even past Taylor's death in 1975.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Released on CD for the first time a few years ago, The Houserockers's debut album still captures the magic that Iglauer heard in the band in small blues clubs on the South Side.

At first listen, one senses something is different with this band. And, sure enough, there is something "missing" - a bass player! The "bass" lines were played by second guitarist Brewer Phillips (who also proves himself to be a competent lead player on two tracks).Drummer Ted Harvey eschews the traditional hi-hat to pound out his rhythms on ride cymbal. And in the middle of it all, there is Taylor playing a mean slide guitar (and even pounding out a few simple leads) and having a good time singing.

Cuts like "It's Alright" and "Give Me Back My Wig" are not your typical blues numbers (whatever typical is with this genre) - these are genuinely fun to listen to, as are some of the numerous instrumentals on Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers. "Walking The Ceiling" is an exercise in musicianship, though one wishes Taylor had gotten a little more creative with his leads. (Trivia time: what famous blues guitarist was once Taylor's roadie? Answer: George Thorogood, who pays tribute to Taylor on his Live album.)

Both guitarists take their turns sharing the lead work on this album - Phillips shines on "Phillip's Theme" and "44 Blues", while Taylor shows wanna-bes the right way to play a mean slide guitar on "Taylor's Rock". The band even manages to cover a blues classic with "It Hurts Me Too."

What is amazing about this band was the way they were able to capture their unique sound through rather simple instruments. While some "musicians" can barely operate their thousand-dollar Les Paul, Taylor played a no-name guitar and was able to wring the notes out of it.

The scary thing to realize is that had Iglauer not invested in this recording, we probably would have lost The Houserockers's music to the ages. What is even scarier is that every day, this exact same thing is happening to dozens of blues artists who don't deserve such a fate.

Rating: B+

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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.