Release date: May 1, 2020
By Robin Zimmerman
From the cancellation of major festivals to the closure of beloved clubs, the blues community has been hit hard this year. But, a ray of hope emerged on May 1st when blues legend John Primer, along with harp whiz Bob Corritore, dropped a new CD that’s chock full of old-school Chicago blues.
The title is the first tip that this CD is a real treat. It’s called The Gypsy Woman Told Me, a tune made famous by the great Muddy Waters. Primer played with him back in the day so he obviously has the chops to take on a classic by the old master. And when it comes to blowing some hot Windy City harp, Corritore is no slouch either.
This isn’t the first rodeo for these blues virtuosos. They’ve previously released two highly-regarded CDs on the Delta Groove label. There was 2013’s Knockin’ Around these Blues followed up by Ain’t Nothin’ You Can Do in 2017. But, they both agree that they’ve hit the jackpot with number three released via VizzTone and SWMAF Records. In a recent interview with Chicago Blues Guide editor, Linda Cain, Primer said “the third one is the charm! With each record, we learn more about each other and ways to make the records better and better!” Corritore concurred and said the CD expands “our brand of Chicago blues.”
Both these gentlemen certainly have the credentials to break out their brand of Chicago blues to the masses. Primer came up from Mississippi in 1963 and quickly made a name for himself during this electrifying era. He played with a “who’s who” of Chicago blues icons and boasts an impressive array of awards and accolades.
Born and raised in Chicago, Corritore’s blues education began early when he saw Muddy play in his high school gymnasium. Soon he was hanging out at Maxwell Street and sitting in on sessions with the era’s hottest harmonica players. By the late seventies, Corritore was producing recordings with several of the blues best harp blowers. Corritore took his recording skills to Phoenix in 1981 and then brought live music to Arizona’s blues barren desert with the opening of the Rhythm Room in 1991. Corritore has also produced some incredible performances with legions of blues luminaries as he works tirelessly to preserve the genre’s legacy.
Old pro Primer is just fine with Corritore taking the reins on The Gypsy Woman Told Me. He said, “I let Bob direct the album. He has the vision, but we talk it over and decide together what is best and what we feel works.”
That’s certainly the case as Primer and Corritore click on all cylinders with a rawness reminiscent of the golden age of Chicago blues. This iconic guitarist and accomplished harpist have literally been living, breathing and broadcasting the blues for over a century between them!
This long-time familiarity showcases their fluency with the genre as well as a desire to keep the music front and center with the blues community. This is especially important given how Covid-19 has literally ripped these musicians’ livelihood away. Want proof? Just CLICK THIS LINK to learn about how Primer and his Real Deal Blues Band narrowly escaped being stranded for months in the Netherlands following the mid-March travel ban.
Primer turns to another mode of transportation on the first cut of The Gypsy Woman Told Me. On Chuck Willis’ “Keep A-Driving,” he kicks off with a classic Chicago guitar riff complemented by Corritore’s blistering harp and June Core’s steady drum beat. Bob Welsh’s piano work with Kedar Roy on bass pair well with Primer’s vocal pipes, providing the perfect pitch for this lively opening number.
The pair crisscrossed around the West Coast to record this modern master work. The Gypsy Woman Told Me was recorded at Tempest Studios in Phoenix and at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in San Jose, California. The Tempest sessions found Corritore and company teaming up with longtime collaborator Clarke Rigsby and go-to drummer, Brian Fahey.
The Greaseland sessions went down after Corritore and Primer had wrapped up a whirlwind week of touring together at various blues festivals. Corritore thinks this shared experience really “synced things up” and this shows in the recordings that sprung from these sessions.
That Greaseland groove is front and center on track 7. Here, they take on J.J. Cale’s “I Got the Same Old Blues” with an extra dose of funk accented by Primer’s world-weary voice and Corritore’s stellar harp. This track also features the talents of Kid Andersen on organ, Fahey on drums and Troy Sandow on bass. Chicago’s own Jimi “Primetime” Smith comes on with some killer licks as well.
While many of the tracks on The Gypsy Woman Told Me are beautifully reimagined covers, Primer contributes a pair of original numbers. The upbeat “Little Bitty Woman” and the slow groove of “Walked So Long,” show the 75-year old Primer’s versatility and ability to keep the blues flame burning brightly.
This burning love of the blues shines through the entire CD with another stand-out being Jimmy Rogers’ “Left Me with a Broken Heart.” This track also features local guitar hero, Billy Flynn with Mike Hightower on bass. Young blues prodigy Ben Levin comes on to play piano with Fahey back on drums.
The Gypsy Woman Told Me was produced by Corritore, Kid Andersen and Clarke Rigsby, which is yet another prophetic sign that this CD is a winner. It’s got a pair of brilliant bluesmen teamed with a crew of truly talented musicians and top-notch producers—all with the same vision. For longtime fans and new listeners alike, The Gypsy Woman Told Me serves as an affirmation that the blues is alive and well. There’s no crystal ball needed because this one’s a keeper!
Buy the music direct from the artist.