Only in the spheres of the blues and pool could the names "magic" and "slim" go so well together. Born in Mississippi, Midwest-based Magic Slim is one of our day’s primo stylists of the modern Chicago blues. Originality is not Slim’s strong suit, but that’s not a knock. Sometimes it’s not what’s said, but how it rolls out the gullet, invested with meaning beyond words. This may be 12-bar blues town, but Magic Slim is the mayor. Slim has a BIG, rich, soulfully rollicking voice (with a wee touch of rasp) and a sharp, stinging, economical guitar style, rich with echoes of Elmore James, Magic Sam, and Freddie King.
Raising The Bar is no-nonsense, gimmick and guest star-free, old-school blues like one might hear in the taverns and clubs of Chicago, Detroit and Lincoln, Nebraska. The slow, stately smoldering "Sunny Road Blues" by Roosevelt Sykes has classy Slim singing a la Little Milton Campbell. Elmore J’s "I Can’t Hold Out" has got that Elmore James slide-thang goin’ on and that slippery churn recurs throughout this platter. Slim’s "Teardrops" provide a terse, tight groove, polished, but inspired. Slim and guitarist Jon McDonald play with a minimum of flash, as in excess), but toss in some tangy, tasty, unexpected notes in the course of their solos. Nothing "new" or innovative here, just solid, straightforward, heartfelt urban blues served up by a guy that’s mastered the form with no compromises and no muss, fuss or waxy build-up. No matter what time of day you play Raising The Bar, it’ll feel like night.