Hey Bo Diddley
- A Tribute!
Reviewed by Mick Rainsford
Tribute albums, by their very nature, can often engender a mawkish sentimentality that hides the fact that the performances, often slavish copies, add little or nothing to the originals, the only successful ones being where the artists reinterpret the tributee's music in their own style, but still retaining the 'blues identity' of the originals. Thankfully "Hey Bo Diddley" falls into the latter category.
If you are going to pay tribute to an artist, then it helps if that artist has a unique and instantly recognizable musical signature, which is certainly the case with Bo Diddley, and that the tracks are well chosen to include the classic hits and 'lesser known' gems from their back catalogue (all culled from the Chess period 1955-62), which again is the case here.
The diversity of the artists appearing on this tribute means there is something for everyone of most blues persuasions, from the guitar pyrotechnics and blues rock sensibilities of Walter Trout's "Roadrunner" to Sugar Blue's wonderfully haunting deep blues rendition of "Mona", his superb harp and wistful vocals retaining the mood and feel of the original whilst at the same time making it undeniably his own. Taj Mahal's "Bo Diddley" retains the Diddley beat but introduces a mystical feel courtesy of mesmerizing guitar and organ riff; Joe Louis Walker sticks close to the original on the frantic "Who Do You Love", although his vocals spawn an inherent menace and the guitar licks are pure JLW; whilst Corey Harris' laid back vocals and echoey slide make "Crackin' Up" one of the jewels in this particular crown.
Roy Gaines' muscular vocals and guitar, aided by Barry Goldberg's deep piano, transform "Before You Accuse Me" into an intensely powerful soul blues; Goldberg's rolling piano underpins the trademark intensity of Otis Rush's fretwork on "I'm A Man", where Rush's anguished vocals are laced with vulnerability; whilst the always impressive Kris Wiley's powerhouse and intense vocals bring that Diddley beat irresistibly into the 21st century as her piercing fretwork rides a pulsing bass line.
Charlie Musselwhite is in great form on a highly individual version of "Hey Bo Diddley"; Coco Montoya adds pure rock'n'roll sensibilities to a great version of "Pills", whilst Tommy Castro, Eric Sardinas, Guitar Shorty, Son Seals and Michael Burks also contribute fine performances.
Despite the fact that there is no version of my particular favourite, "Pretty Thing", I can only recommend that you do what Bo would say and go to your local record store and say 'Gimme, Gimme, Gimme'.
of Blueprint Blues Magazine
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