Sunnyland Slim, Shakey Horton, Little Brother Montgomery, Memphis Slim – Chicago Piano, 1951-58 (1993)

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By Nick DeRiso

It you’re interested in Delta piano stylings, as seen through the sieve of Chicago’s mean streets, here’s a great place to begin your journey.

Issued by Stan Lewis’s hip-shaking local indie label, “Chicago Piano, 1951-58” features Sunnyland Slim, Little Brother Montgomery, Memphis Slim and others.

Sunnyland leads the charge, appearing with his own group and backing guitarist Floyd Jones. The great Willie Dixon and Otis Rush sit in on many of these sides, playing bass and guitar.

The find, though, is Shakey Horton — a guy with a great, pure R&B voice. His shuffle, “Need My Baby,” includes the strongest accompaniment of the series — with sharp guitar and on-the-money sax fills.

Memphis Slim, who backed Big Bill Broonzy in the 1940s, is featured on four on-the-floor sides. (Slim, by the way, was the first to head to Europe and make a name, something that set the table for later starving-in-America stars like Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown in the 1970s.)

The two Little Brother Montgomery tunes are studies of 1950s blues dichotomy — his “Keep Drinkin'” is all quivery Delta, with the whisperiest of backing; “Boogie,” on the other hand, absolutely gallops.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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