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Jimi "Primetime" Smith & Bob Corritore - The World in a Jug

Release date: February 10, 2023

VizzTone/SWMAF Records
By Robin Zimmerman

Photo: by Bruce Charles

Flash back to forty or so years ago on the musically rich west side of Chicago. There you’d find one Jimi “Primetime” Smith, son of the “Big Boss Lady,” blues drummer Johnnie Mae Dunson who made her mark on Maxwell Street.

As befitting someone born into blues royalty, Smith grew up with mentors like Jimmy Reed and Eddie Taylor. He was playing the Ann Arbor Blues Festival at the tender age of fourteen and soon joined B.L.U.E.S in Chicago’s house band, playing alongside the likes of Big Walter Horton, Tenner “Playboy” Venson and Floyd Jones.

Meanwhile, “cutting his teeth” over on Maxwell Street was a brash young harpist by the name of Bob Corritore. He had caught the blues bug at the age of twelve when he heard Muddy Waters on the radio. It wasn’t long before Corritore picked up a harmonica and started obsessively collecting blues records. After seeing Waters play at his North Suburban high school gym, Corritore went all in on the blues life.

These two fellows might have come from different parts of town with disparate backgrounds, but they eventually became familiar with each other on the Chicago blues circuit where everyone speaks the same musical language.

Corritore summed up his first encounter with Smith in a recent interview with Living Blues magazine. He recalls walking into B.L.U.E.S and hearing Smith on guitar there. Corritore remembers that “I enjoyed his guitar playing, which was straight ahead, very cool.”

Although Chicago was a hotbed of blues music during this time, both musicians made the move to different parts of the country. After local gangs tried to recruit him, Smith hightailed up to Minneapolis, Minnesota where he continued to bolster his blues credentials, culminating in being named to the Minneapolis Blues Hall of Fame in 2014.

Meanwhile, Corritore made the break from the frenetic scene that was so prevalent in Chicago during the early eighties. He headed out to the Arizona desert where he continued to devote his life to playing, producing, and proselytizing the blues. About a decade later, he opened his Rhythm Room in Phoenix and began collaborating with a full slate of great musicians whenever they would play there.

As fate would have it, “Primetime” decided to make the move to the Phoenix area where he reconnected with Corritore who said in a recent Living Blues interview that, “Jimi will play egolessly in a second guitar part but then shine when it’s his time to. He’s blessed our town with his presence here.”

Smith was equally grateful for the partnership, saying, “Seems like God had a plan for me to move to Arizona and reconnect with Bob Corritore, my brother in the blues.”

With this kind of chemistry, these two kindred spirits started making beautiful music together beginning in 2017. This storied partnership resulted in The World in a Jug, which is chock full of great blues in the best Windy City tradition. It’s yet another release springing out of Corritore’s “From the Vaults” collection through the VizzTone Label Group and the Southwest Musical Arts Foundation.

On The World in a Jug, Corritore continues to build on his archival music legacy with this 10-song CD that celebrates a great musical collaboration while also paying tribute to Johnnie Mae Dunson’s songwriting talents. While she never got the recognition and royalties she deserved, she was a prolific songwriter who turned out hundreds of songs for Jimmy Reed and many others.

Her son also proves that he’s no slouch as tunesmith; Smith’s songwriting skills are showcased on six songs on World in a Jug that run the gamut from the somewhat sappy ‘You for Me” to begging his baby to head down to Alabama with him on “Southbound. This wily blues veteran also has the vocal chops that are pitch perfect for each track’s specific vibe.

It goes without saying that Corritore’s harmonica is in sync with every musical twist each track takes. As someone who has jammed with everyone from RL Burnside and Pinetop Perkins to John Primer, Mud Morganfield and so many others, Corritore’s harp always manages to complement the artist’s musical delivery, style, and identity. This is especially evident on The World in a Jug where Smith and Corritore play off each other letter perfectly. Given that they both “came up” in Chicago around the same time, this is not at all surprising.

Smith and Corritore are in tandem right out of the gate as they take on Dunson’s “The World in a Jug,” which also features the 92-year-old Chicago-based bluesman, Bob Stroger, who continues to amaze with his ageless nature and great bass contributions.

Stroger also appears on the second track as Corritore and company do a fine job on Freddie King’s “Love Her with a Feeling.” On this track, “Primetime” is right on time with his plaintive wails punctuated by some soulful spoken word.

Like other “From the Vaults” releases, The World in a Jug features impassioned performances by brilliant blues artists who are no longer with us. Such is the case with “You for Me” and “Southbound" where the late Henry Gray’s keyboard artistry is front-and-center.

“Soul Food” is another standout on The World in a Jug. This upbeat track is complete with sassy background singers and Doug James’ snazzy saxophone. In addition to this appetizing musical mix, Smith does a fine job on vocals as he checks off all the soulful delicacies he’s been craving.

From upbeat numbers like “Soul Food” to smooth grooves like “Fire and Ice,” The World in a Jug serves up a full plate of great traditional blues in various forms. Like so many other artists he’s partnered with, Corritore’s collaboration with Smith has yielded another stellar release. As is the case with all the “From the Vault” partnerships, blues fans reap the benefits of Corritore’s many jam sessions with the best and brightest in the business.

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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