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Wallace COLEMAN – The Bad Weather Blues 2003

Posted in BLUES, Wallace COLEMAN on December 23, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Wallace COLEMAN – The Bad Weather Blues 2003


What little I knew of Wallace Coleman prior to the arrival of this disc, his debut as leader, led me to expect hard-core Chicago blues throughout. After all, participants include two stalwarts of the Windy City’s traditional blues scene, guitarist Billy Flynn and bassist Bob Stroger.
To be sure, there are some nice blues that would sound just fine in any club on the South Side. But elsewhere Wallace is all over the stylistic map, from the achingly sweet “Southern Comfort,” an instrumental with a vaguely pop-country feel, to the rootsy, old-timey “Standing Still,” sounding a bit like something Taj Mahal might come up with. The title track combines a catchy chorus with Wallace’s spoken tale of misadventure on a bus. It’s cool enough but goes on awfully long for an opening cut; better sequencing would position it later in proceedings. And “Seems Like” falls somewhere between the swamp and Northern Soul, but Coleman’s laconic delivery is almost lounge-like.

Yet “Pretty All Over,” “Better Way To Live,” and “Cloudy” are solid, if slightly subdued, slices of deep blue. “Blue Mist,” another instrumental, shows Coleman can hold his own in the school of Little Walter, and “Mean Red Spider” proves him thoroughly convincing with material straight from the Delta. Coleman tries his hand at contemporary with “High Tech Blues,” marrying modern concerns to a Hoochie Coochie riff to good effect, thought it won’t make anyone forget the swaggering bravado of the original. And he chooses to wrap things up with a surprisingly sprightly take on Jimmy Oden’s immortal “Going Down Slow” that sees the band shuffling merrily off into the sunset.

Coleman is a supremely relaxed singer with a natural, gruff delivery that works well. The band performs competently, again with a relaxed approach that might strike those conditioned by harder-edged production as slightly sleepy. But this is old-time stuff, with the tapestry created when all the instruments weave together more important than individual grandstanding; think Muddy’s band when he and Jimmy Rogers seemed of one mind.

For all the variety on display here, this remains a satisfying listen. It’s not a party disc, and depending on mood you might find yourself skipping tracks on occasion. It would be nice to hear Coleman do an all-blues disc, but then we’d miss some very interesting music and some revelatory harmonica playing.

Recommended, but with the caveat that this one isn’t going to be for everyone. You might want to listen to see if it appeals to your tastes first.
14 tracks, 75 minutes. Recommended. Bad Weather Blues kicks things up a few notches when compared to previous outings from The Wallace Coleman Band. While remaining on-course with their classic Chicago Blues approach, this mostly original effort shows more growth, confidence, and self-assurance. Covers are primarily limited to Little Walter’s Everybody Needs Somebody, Robert Lockwood by way of Muddy on Mean Red Spider, and St. Louis Jimmy’s Going Down Slow, although the crafty writing on the remainder of the set blends perfectly with the Windy City classics. Billy Flynn and Bob Stroger step in as guests and shine with the rest of the band. Highlights include the title track, a harp-shuffling Billy Bob Jam, the stop-time humor of High Tech Blues, and Coleman’s Blue Mist, a Little Walter-like chromatic harp standout.
If the name doesn’t ring a bell, don’t go searching for a copy of Blues for Dummies. Wallace Coleman entered the blues fray after retiring from the Cleveland, OH, bakery where he unloaded trucks. He was born in 1936 in Morristown, TN, where he fell for the blues listening to Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Little Walter recordings on WLAC late night broadcasts out of Nashville. Jimmy Reed and Little Walter records inspired him to play the harmonica. Coleman taught himself to play on a 50 cent harp and developed lung power by imitating freight trains.

He followed his mother, who remarried and moved, to Cleveland, OH, in 1956; Wallace arrived a year later and found a career-lasting job at Hough Bakery where he played the harp during his breaks, honing his skills. He befriended the blues artists who came to town which wasn’t difficult to do since most played small clubs seating less than 100 patrons. So blues notables like Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, and others were accessible to aspiring musicians and fans. Amazingly, he didn’t perform in public until he was 51.

Guitar Slim (known for his playing as well as his prowess with the ladies) was introduced to Coleman by one of Wallace’s co-workers; an impromptu audition resulted in Coleman regularly playing with Slim’s band at the Cascade Lounge located at 79th & St. Clair. Renown blues singer and guitar player Robert Jr. Lockwood resided near the Cascade on Lawnview Avenue and went to hear the band one evening and came away impressed with Coleman’s traditional blues playing. So much so that he offered him a position with his band, Coleman nixed the offer because he was two years from retirement; as events unfolded, he retired early anyway for a chance to pursue the music blooming from his soul. Ironically, the bakery closed for good four years after he left.

Upon retiring, he contacted Lockwood in 1987 to see if the offer still stood, it did, and he began a 10-year association with the Godfather of Cleveland Blues. A guy he emulated as a teen in Morristown without even knowing it; Lockwood played guitar on many of the blues records that he admired; Coleman even created harmonica parts for some of Robert Johnson’s songs redid by Lockwood — Johnson’s stepson. The 10 years were eventful as Lockwood’s band gigged all over the U.S., Canada, and overseas. In 1996 he formed his own band: the Wallace Coleman Blues Band. A year later he left Lockwood for good and recorded his first CD, Wallace Coleman on Fishhead Records.

The critically acclaimed album received rave reviews from blues critics; it included one of his finest efforts “Black Spider.” Career highlights include the Lockwood years, playing the Rose Center in his birthplace, Morristown, TN, and his enterprise: Pinto Blues Music where he has released a second CD entitled Stretch My Money. When not touring he played regularly at the Main Street Cafe in Medina, and Pepper Joe’s Bar and Grill in Lakewood, OH. And has also performed at the East Cleveland Library, many private parties, and at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Tribute to Muddy Waters. He married happily to Jody Getz.
By Andrew Hamilton. AMG.
Mark Hoffmann- (Guitar),
Bob Stroger- (Bass), (Vocals Background),(Guest Appearance),
Wallace Coleman- (Harmonica), (Vocals),
Billy Flynn (Guitar),(Tambourine), (Vocals Background),(Slide Guitar),
(Guitar (12 String Acoustic),(Guest Appearance).
01. Bad Weather Blues (7:00)
02. Pretty All Over (5:06)
03. Southern Comfort (5:55)
04. Better Way To Live (4:43)
05. Everybody Needs Somebody (4:25)
06. Standing Still (3:46)
07. Blue Mist (5:46)
08. Mean Red Spider (5:23)
09. Cloudy (5:22)
10. Billy Bob Jam (5:44)
11. Seems Like (4:50)
12. Old Fashioned Guy (7:10)
13. High Tech Blues (4:31)
14. Going Down Slow (3:59)
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