The late Junior Wells was one of the original top-shelf Chicago Blues guys - before establishing himself a bandleader/performer, he replaced harmonica god Little Walter in Muddy Waters’ band and had a long-running off-and-on partnership with blues guitar great Buddy Guy. Wells was of the generation of blues players that made you feel when you hear his music, it’s ALWAYS 1:45 AM in some smoky bar and you’re trying to decide if that person across the bar that you’ve been eying all night is worth the trouble or not. Wells’ gravelly vocals have little polish and his harmonica sound is sharp as a Chicago winter -not to knock either of these guys, but, by comparison, Wells makes Kim Wilson and Robert Cray sound like Jim Belushi and Jeremy Irons respectively.
This lil’ platter in question captures Wells in his element: live (his last tour, 1997), singing himself (almost) hoarse with a ragged-but-right guitar/organ/horns/bass/drums crew that’s got that Memphis grit (a la Booker T & The MGs) and barroom soul. This is not the kind of "blues" you might hear in a beer commercial or hear in a Hollywood movie soundtrack - the edges have NOT been smoothed out, it has NOT been sanitized for your protection. Nor is this "purist" blues - there’s a hearty dose of archetypical, sharp, baby-workout James Brown-style funk in a few of the songs. Wells is not on a mission to preserve a vital American roots/art form, he’s strutting his stuff on some familiar blues standards ("Little Red Rooster," "Got My Mojo Workin’") and working that joyously ominous sex-oozing Southern-fried groove ("Waitin’ On a Night Train"). In short: he got laid and he got paid, and gave the crowd their money’s worth. But for me, the real highlight is the closer: the sparse, insistent "Gotta Find Somebody Else," which not only sounds improvised but like Wells is calling to the blues gods, trying to reach that eerie Other Place, seeking the god-demon that grants the Mojo That Transcends All Knowing. This is, as far as The Chicago-style Blues go, is the real thing that a lot of people talk about but seldom approach...cool.