These two CDs almost couldn’t help but be hodgepodges, since they’re compilations culled from compilations – the tribute albums Rattlesnake Guitar (from 1995, dedicated to Peter Green) and 2002’s From Clarksdale To Heaven (remembering John Lee Hooker) and a ’97 roundup of then-newly recorded British blues, Knights Of The Blues Table. But they’re intriguing hodgepodges, with enough inspired performances to outweigh a few clinkers.
Nearly half of the 30 combined tracks come from Rattlesnake. Wisely, artists didn’t attempt to mimic the Fleetwood Mac founder; indeed, Larry Mitchell’s version of “If I Loved Another Woman” (the epitome of Green’s economic style) is closer to a Stevie Ray – a note-filled barrage, but a very impressive one. And paired with Jon Paris’ vocal, bass, and harp, Harvey Mandel throws in plectrum-edge harmonics, chicken pickin’, and his trademark sustain on “Ramblin’ Pony.”
Rory Gallagher handles vocals, mandolin, and slide (acoustic and keening electric) on a nice “Leaving Town Blues,” while “Stop Messin’ Around” is given a swinging, acoustic groove by Savoy Brown, featuring founder Kim Simmonds. The standout Green homage, though, is Simmonds’ former bandmate, Lonesome Dave Peverett, on the minor-key “Love That Burns,” with his Foghat partner Rod Price on fat-toned slide and some great harp courtesy Southside Johnny.
Hooker is best represented by T.S. McPhee, whose Groundhogs were named after Hook’s “Ground Hog Blues,” reprised here. Accompanied by only his acoustic guitar and Dick Heckstall-Smith’s sax, it’s perhaps the most original reading of the set.
Highlights from Knight include Mick Taylor’s gnarly slide on “You Shook Me” and Otis Grand’s jazzy guitar, backing Paul Jones on a T-Bone Walker medley. The set also offers rare platforms for the underrated Duffy Power (in a drummerless trio featuring Heckstall-Smith again) and Cream lyricist Pete Brown, not only taking a lead vocal but producing many of the tracks.
This article originally appeared in VG’s Oct. ’10 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.