Jimmy Wolf pays some due respect on the self-released A Tribute to Little Johnny Taylor to the Conway, Arkansas native that shows the blues did not start and end in Mississippi. Little Johnny Taylor’s approach was sometimes compared to Bobby Bland although Little Johnny Taylor had several successful R&B chart successes of his own in the 60’s and 70’s which included a couple of pop crossover hits “Part Time Love” and “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing” which are both featured on this collection.
Jimmy Wolf makes some use of his deep knowledge of living and playing on Memphis’ Ground Zero for the Blues down B.B. and Furry Lewis’ playground; Beale Street where he spent several years jamming with some artists that one wouldn’t know much about unless you spent time listening to the late great Fred Saunders among others.
By picking from the Little Johnny Taylor catalog, Jimmy Wolf has a deep reservoir of great songs that have not been exploited time and time again. Many of the songs on this album may be a first listen to a lot of new blues fans just like when Eric Clapton brought Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” to a modern generation. In fact, the material is so strong; Jimmy could have easily done a Volume Two.
The gatefold photos of Jimmy with Little Johnny Taylor probably back when he was playing in Memphis and a shot closer to when Little Johnny Taylor passed away is worth the price of admission alone. Jimmy probably has some great stories about playing with the greats in Memphis for a big chunk of his life.
“Walking The Floor” kicks off with a swing boogie sing-a-long that would get any room going. He’s got a strong band on this album and Jimmy’s first hand Memphis experience with a cross of Albert Collins’ Ice Pick bite and Albert King’s early 70’s lead vibe has lots of swagger and nasty string bends. Jimmy plays like he has something to prove.
“Zig Zag Lightning” has the strident snare 1-2-3-4 hits of the original Galaxy records cut but with a little bit of some modern Memphis street funk especially in the hi-hat accents and plenty of B3 vibe thrown in. Jimmy’s playing is smooth almost Curtis Mayfield groove before hitting the pedal for his lead break which breaks through a sheet of ice and staggers through a big gain stage closeout reminiscent of what Gary Moore was after with the blues before passing away with some Paul Kossoff trigger finger vibrato..
“Everybody Knows About My Good Thing” kicks out the beginning with a little Albert King on the V type break. Jimmy plays as if he has to get the crowd response hear and now. The playing is not laid back for the record. This might as well have been recorded on a hot august night down on Beale Street where the crowd will walk out on you if they aint feelin’ it. Jimmy’s good thing is solid cut through the mix lead breaks.
Other stand-out tracks are “Junkie For Your Love” with the 70’s wah blues lead-in to some serious groove as well as the barn burning classic “Part Time Love,”
The album is a big enough showpiece that Jimmy Wolf and his band, Thomas “T.C.” Carter on Bass, Joe “Lawd Deez” Cummings on Keys and Stephen “Rythmcnasty” Bender on drums should be doing a multi-night stand at The Drop Zone in Northern Arkansas while Conway gives Jimmy the key to the city and proclaims Little Johnny Taylor day.
– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN firstname.lastname@example.org