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Bob Corritore & John Primer - Crawlin' Kingsnake

Release date: March 29, 2024

VizzTone/SWMAF Records
By Robin Zimmerman

Photo: John Primer & Bob Corritore

The dynamic duo of John Primer and Bob Corritore have worked some major musical magic once again! Their fourth CD release, Crawlin’ Kingsnake is a striking showcase of old-school blues from a pair of charming, long-term collaborators who remain at the top of their game.

 Guitarist John Primer, who turned 79 on March 5th, could easily be resting on his laurels and looking back on everything from playing behind Muddy Waters to serving as Magic Slim’s bandleader. Flash forward to 2024 and it is still Primer’s time as he continues to burnish and broaden his blues legacy. For the past few years, he’s been on a tear with accomplishments that include his 2023 induction into the Blues Hall of Fame, a Grammy nod and recently walking off with the Living Blues “Male Blues Artist of the Year.”


Meanwhile, the always busy Bob Corritore released five albums in 2023, toured extensively and hosted a slew of jam sessions at his Rhythm Room in Phoenix. As witnessed by the incredible set with Corritore and several local legends at last summer’s Windy City Blues Fest, this harp player extraordinaire and all-around blues booster, knows how to bring out the best in any band he plays with.


There certainly is an “A List” of musicians doing their part to make Crawlin Kingsnake so great. In a recent interview with Steve Hoare on his Blues Lounge Radio Show, Corritore said that he chose artists who were true to the Chicago blues tradition. He added that it was very important to get a “bunch of people in the room that are great players and we all feed off of it.” Corritore also said that it is “really kind of spiritual how it all happens.”


The spirited group of bona fide blues players on Crawlin’ Kingsnake include Jimi “Primetime” Smith on second guitar and backing vocals, Bob Stroger on electric bass, Anthony Geraci on piano with Wes Starr on drums and percussion. It was produced by Corritore, Clarke Rigsby and John Wroble and recorded over four sessions from 2021 to 2023.


This group of cool cats with a rock-solid Chicago blues background, serves notice that they mean business from the get-go. On the very first track, they put their own spin on James Cotton’s “Take a Message” with Primer’s vocals straight out of the Mississippi Delta and summoning up the golden age of blues in the 312.


Corritore praised Primer as being a “powerful leader” who has “such a strong stage presence.” Such is the case with the titular “Crawlin’ Kingsnake,” Corritore said, “I always loved the way John did the song with so much authority.” He added that “it’s a great song and we hear a lot of versions of it. But, in today’s world, you don’t hear anybody sing it like John Primer. He just takes charge and when you play with that power, it just elevates you to another level.” 


As befits a bandleader of his stature, Primer knows when to let the other players take center stage.  Throughout the course of this 12-track tour de force, all members of this brilliant blues ensemble showcase their considerable skills. Meanwhile, as Primer’s partner in keeping time, Corritore continues to amaze with his versatile harp work and keen knowledge of the Chicago blues tradition.


Corritore’s love of Chicago blues goes back to seeing Muddy Waters play in his high school gym while Primer famously appeared on stage with Waters and the Rolling Stones at the old Checkerboard Lounge in 1981. As Muddy’s guitarist and bandleader from 1980 until his passing in 1983, Primer is well-versed in the old master’s music and mannerisms. That’s why it’s a special treat to hear three terrific renditions of Muddy Water’s tunes— ‘’Stuff You Gotta Watch,” “Rosalee Blues” and “Feel Like Going Home—all included on Crawlin’ Kingsnake. 


Crawlin’ Kingsnake also serves up some great takes on B.B. King’s “Chains and Things,” Willie Dixon’s “Down in the Bottom” and “Gravel Road” made famous by Magic Slim. As someone who played with both Dixon and Slim, Primer is uniquely qualified to bring his versions of these songs to a new generation of listeners.


The liner notes on Crawlin Kingsnake call out that “it’s true to both the sacred tradition and the moment in time of right now” and this description rings true on every track. Thanks to its skilled musicians, stellar song selection and their keen familiarity with the Chicago blues legacy, Crawlin Kingsnake is sure to strike a chord with long-time blues lovers as well as new converts to the genre.  This fine effort by Primer, Corritore and company is a “must have” for any music collection and you’re hereby advised to pounce on Crawlin Kingsnake and put it on play repeatedly.



About the Author: Blues enthusiast Robin Zimmerman, a.k.a. Rockin' Robin, writes a Blues Blog and is a regular contributor to Chicago Blues Guide

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