Carey BELL & Tough Luck – Mellow Down Easy 1991

Carey BELL & Tough Luck – Mellow Down Easy 1991


The harpist hooked up with a young Maryland-based band called Tough Luck for this disc, certainly one of his better outings. The traditional mindset of the combo pushed Bell back to his roots, whether on the originals “Just like You” and the Horton homage “Big Walter Strut” or revivals of Muddy Waters’ “Short Dress Woman” and “Walking Thru the Park” and the classic Little Walter title cut.
By Bill Dahl. AMG.
Carey cut his first record as a sideman with Earl Hooker in 1968. For the next 2 years, he and guitarist Eddie Taylor led the house band at Big Duke’s Flamingo Club on Chicago’s west side. He found the time to leave Big Duke’s on occasion, touring Europe with John Lee Hooker in 1969, and finally quitting for good when Muddy Waters offered him a job in 1970. He stayed with Muddy for a year, recording an album with him and Steve Winwood in London before deciding to strike out on his own once again.

For the last 2 decades, Carey has continued to tour extensively as a bandleader and, on occasion, as a sideman. He toured Australia and New Zealand with Willie Dixon in 1974, and has been a frequent visitor to Europe and Canada, often with his talented guitarist son Lurrie. Stylistically, he remains true to his “musical father” in his use of melody and dynamics, yet there is a difference. Whereas Walter Horton’s melodies were often ethereal, Bell’s remain firmly rooted in reality. Like many great musicians, he “speaks” with his harmonica, reinforcing and commenting on the lyrics of whatever song he is singing, whether happy or sad.

Mellow Down Easy is an appropriate title for Bell’s Blind Pig recording. The music has a relaxed feel to it, from J.T. Brown’s “Short Dress Woman” to Jimmy Rogers’ (J.A. Lane) “Walkin’ By Myself”. Bell pays tribute to his former bandleaders with 2 originals, “Delta Time” (to Muddy Waters) and “Big Walter Strut” (to Big Walter Horton) and his cover of “Mellow Down Easy”, written by the great Willie Dixon. A master of chromatic harp, he brings Little Walter-like elements to the opening bars of “St. Louis Blues” before breaking into a light and jazzy swing tempo. “One Day” is an original twelve bar blues with Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller) vocal stylings, its light tone in sharp contrast to the following, more heartfelt tune, “So Easy To Love You”.

Carey Bell’s blues are timeless. Mellow Down Easy is comprised of both original and cover material, yet labels such as “contemporary” and “traditional” do not necessarily apply. What you have here is simply the blues played and sung with honesty and exuberance by one of the best in the business.
Carey Bell– Vocals & Harmonica
Steve Jacobs– Guitar
Brian McGregor– Bass
Buddy Grandell– Drums
Lips Lackowitz– Harmonica
Kevin McKendree– Organ
01. Short Dress Woman 3:15
02. Delta Time 3:34
03. Five Long Years 3:47
04. Mellow Down Easy 2:58
05. For The Love Of A Woman 3:13
06. Just Like You 4:14
07. Walkin’ Thru The Park 2:42
08. St. Louis Blues 4:37
09. That Spot Right There 3:35
10. Big Walter Strut 3:19
11. One Day 3:12
12. So Easy To Love You 5:28
13. Walkin’ By Myself 3:08

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