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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If it wasn't for bad luck I wouldn't have no luck at all, 28 July 2011
Dangerous Dave (Berkhamsted, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wintertime Blues (Audio CD)
The only thing that's unfortunate about this album is its title. While I have absolutely nothing against the track from which it's derived which is excellent - see below (and I have the single to prove it) - I feel that its use as a title could suggest that Lightnin' was in the fall of his career. While in some respects this was true - the album does take us through to his last recordings for Excello in 1965 and he didn't record anything of great substance from then until his death in 1974 - the quality of his recordings didn't suffer in any way. Indeed this comment applies right across all three of the albums that Ace have issued covering his career with Excello, the others being "Rooster Blues / Bellringer", "It's might crazy" and "Nothin' but the devil". His Excello recording legacy is impressive and warrants favourable comparison with many better known artists.

Broadly coincidental with the period covered by the start of this album there were a couple of changes made to the style of accompaniment for Lightnin's records: he stopped playing lead guitar, instead the lead was taken by various musicians from the Excello's house band, and, a fuller backing band was used with bass guitar, sometimes second guitar, possibly piano, in addition to the usual drums and harmonica (with the latter usually but not always, played by Lazy Lester). On the positive side this was a more complex and often interesting sound than the preceding stark mix of rudimentary and predictable guitar (from Lightnin'), drums and harmonica. Set against this is the fact that inevitably Lightnin's new recordings lose an element of distinctiveness.

The first couple of tracks show the new backing approach at its best. "Mind your own business" is an excellent up tempo number with lead guitar and piano featuring strongly. "Winter time blues" is the standard Lightnin' slow blues but benefiting from the fuller backing. The latter also incorporates a dialogue between Lightnin' and Lester during one of the verses. The "fuller" approach also incorporates more experimentation which is not always successful. Several tracks starting around track 18, "Darlin' you're the one", feature organ accompaniment which is, at the very least, a mixed blessing. I've nothing at all against an organ in the right place (and played sympathetically) but its presence here doesn't do a lot for the downhome image. Another experiment, and one that I feel does work, is the heavy tremolo guitar used on "The Strangest Feelin'" - this time the guitar sound fits very well with the song.

As on Lightnin's previous albums there are a few Chess references scattered around. He performs a very good version of Sonny Boy Williamson's slow "Lonesome Cabin Blues". This is followed by "Don't start me talkin'" (sic) which is not credited to Williamson in the notes, however it is a bowdlerised version of Sonny Boy's famous song but, with the stop time portions removed (and it's also very good). "Bad luck is falling" and "I'm Evil" are reminiscent of the Wolf and Muddy respectively but again I should add that both are excellent.

Jay Miller managed to convince Lightnin' to have a go at a swamp pop number with "If you ever need me" complete with talky portion. Lightnin' certainly plays his part with some conviction but I feel the track is brought down by some messy percussion.

Overall the up tempo tracks often sparkle in this collection - good examples are "I'm warning you baby", "You know you're so fine" (strangely disparaged in the Notes), and "You move me baby" - but they are in the minority. All the slow blues are good bearing in my earlier comments on slight drop in distinctiveness (and organs !?!?!?).
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Wintertime Blues
Wintertime Blues by Lightnin' Slim (Audio CD - 1998)
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