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Chicago Blues

TBT – Homesick James’ Forgotten Masterpiece “Ain’t Sick No More”

January 28
23:17 2016

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Editors Note: This week, Throwback Thursday looks at a true blues classic, by one of the blues form’s most underrated masters. This post was originally posted November 13th, 2014.

Homesick James is not a name that casual blues fans might be familiar with. Blues devotees, on the other hand will be quite familiar with his work. He is legendary for his live performances, and is revered among Chicago blues devotees for the expressive feel of his guitar playing, along with his impassioned vocals. His sound was similar to that of his cousin, Elmore James, who he claimed he taught to play slide guitar. While Elmore James’ slide playing is generally regarded as “more refined” than that of his cousin, Homesick James’ playing is still potent and emotive.  James was a member of his cousin Elmore’s band from 1955 to 1963, playing on blues standards including “Dust My Broom,” “The Sky Is Crying,” and “Roll and Tumble.” Other artists he worked with were Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller), Floyd Jones, Lazy Bill Lucas, and Snooky Pryor.

Those who worship at the Homesick James shrine of Chicago blues most often point to the 1964 recording Blues on the South Side, on the Prestige/Original Blues label as his best work. While this recording is a masterwork by any standard, 1973’s Ain’t Sick No More is often overlooked, and it too is a masterpiece in its own right. Recorded at P.S. Studios in Chicago on the Bluesway label, Ain’t Sick No More is everything a blues album should be: moving, soul stirring, joyous, and exquisite in its execution.

The 12 tracks comprising Ain’t Sick No More clock in at a surprisingly brief 39 minutes, but that’s 39 minutes of nourishment for the blues soul that lingers long after the music has stopped. James is joined by a stellar crew on this outing including Dave Myers – bass, Willie Smith – drums, Eddie Taylor – guitar, and Snooky Prior on harmonica. The sound quality on the album is good, the production is not fussy, and the mix is raw and immediate.

As a unit, the band’s work here is impeccable and inspiring. Taylor and James’ guitars pout, laugh, sing, and speak to us in beautiful lines and phrasing, with exceptional tone. Snooky Pryor’s harp playing is brilliant here as well. Sure, Homesick’s slide is reminiscent of his cousin Elmore’s sound, but it is still his sound, and it still moves us in a powerful way.

For those who have never experienced this recording, find it. Lose yourself in it for a while. For those who have experienced the inspiring beauty and awe of this album, listen to it again. Spend some quality time with this music. You will thank yourself for it.

Homesick James

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Barry Kerzner

Barry Kerzner

For as long as I can remember I have loved music, especially Blues & Jazz. Now I write and share that love of music with others. To see my photoart, visit http://adbrvl.co/17Eb09g

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