“Willie Buck Way”
Born in 1937 in Houston, Mississippi, singer/songwriter Willie Buck arrived in Chicago as a teenager in 1953 smack-dab in the midst of the post-war heyday of Chicago blues. A brother-in-law used to sneak him into clubs like Smitty’s Corner and Pepper’s to hear Muddy Waters with his classic band and within a year he was sitting in at those same venues (even singing with Little Walter just before his untimely death) and in the 70s began leading his own bands, that were abrim with top-shelf talent like Eddie Taylor, Johnny “Big Moose” Walker and Magic Slim.
Willie Buck Way is the name of an honorary street named after Buck in his adopted hometown as well as the title of his new Delmark recording where he’s accompanied by some of the Windy City’s finest—acoustic/electric guitarists Billy Flynn and Thaddeus Krolicki, harp aces Scott Dirks, Big Spider Beck and Mervyn “Harmonica” Hinds, pianist Johnny “Fingers” Iguana, bassist Bob Stroger and drummer Jimmy Mayes. In addition to forthrightly fresh covers of a couple of Muddy’s songs (“Please Have Mercy” and “How Deep Is The Ocean”) and a stark reappraisal of Leroy Carr’s reflective “Blues Before Sunrise” Buck also delivers a dozen poignantly vivid originals in that classic old-school style—favorites are the cautionary “The Men Ought To Learn (To Treat The Women Right),” the good-timey “Bottom Of The Hill,” a tough-toned “My Mind Froze Up” and the robust “Heck Of A Time.” As liners author Plastic Crimewave puts it: “Buck is still at the top of his game and this new album is a showcase for his deep roots and raw yet smooth vocal skills.” Recommended.
—Gary von Tersch