First released in 1969, after guitarist Jimmy Dawkins had served a long apprenticeship as a sideman in the Chicago electric blues scene, Fast Fingers remains one of the finest pure electric blues albums of its era. Dawkins proves to be a solid songwriter and an able singer, although the best moments on the album invariably come when he tears off a casually perfect, deeply soulful, but never showy electric solo. Highlights include the stomping instrumental "Triple Trebles," featuring an outstanding Dawkins solo over a funky horn-driven rhythm, and the mellow, laid-back opener, "It Serves Me Right to Suffer."
Chicago guitarist Jimmy Dawkins would have preferred to leave his longtime nickname "Fast Fingers" behind. It was always something of a stylistic misnomer anyway; Dawkins' West Side-styled guitar slashed and surged, but seldom burned with incendiary speed. Dawkins' blues were generally of the brooding, introspective variety – he didn't engage in flashy pyrotechnics or outrageous showmanship. It took a long time for Dawkins to progress from West Side fixture to nationally known recording artist. He rode a Greyhound bus out of Mississippi in 1955, dressing warmly to ward off the Windy City's infamous chill factor. Only trouble was, he arrived on a sweltering July day! Harpist Billy Boy Arnold offered the newcomer encouragement, and he eventually carved out a niche on the competitive West Side scene (his peers included Magic Sam and Luther Allison).
Not a prolific composer, Thackery's strength lies in strong arrangements that make other people's material his own. He covers Stevie Ray Vaghan's "Rude Mood," and one suspects there will be comparisons made in this direction. His solos burn the motel down on Luther Johnson's "Lickin' Gravy," and he manages a more than credible job on Hendrix's "Red House." Of the two self-penned numbers, the title track is a convincing boogie driven by an ultra-cool, echoed, chicken-scratch guitar riff, while "Getting Tired of Waiting" offers a more traditional blues shuffle.
Jimmy Giuffre may not have gotten his due with American audiences outside very specific kinds of jazz circles, but he was loved and respected by other musicians and the audiences of Europe and Asia. His reputation among those groups of listeners and players is well deserved for the radical, if quiet and unassuming path he walked throughout his seven-decade career. These sides, recorded between 1956 and 1959 with guitarist Jim Hall, his most symbiotic collaborator and foil, are at the heart of his reputation as a pioneer – even more so than his killer early-'60s sides (à la Free Fall) with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow.
After tackling old-school R&B, country-roots, and Memphis soul on his previous three releases, Australian rock veteran Jimmy Barnes returns to more familiar territory on his 16th studio release, Rage and Ruin. Produced by longtime collaborator Don Gehman, the back-to-basics affair sees the gravelly-voiced rocker, the most successful home-grown recording artist in his country's history, battle his demons on 12 tracks inspired by a book of notes he wrote while struggling with drug and alcohol addiction – hence the biblical titles like the driving country-rock of "This Ain't the Day That I Die," the Eagles-influenced AOR of "I've Seen It All (Rage and Ruin)," and the self-described "raw rockin' stomper" "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead."