Ten seconds into the third song from this blistering 1981 set, the late Denny Freeman has given any guitarist his money’s worth – with interest. From his mega-tremolo on “Tomcat,” through rhythm scratching on “Harlem Shuffle,” and the gnarliest slow blues entry in recent memory, Freeman gives a master class in blues-guitar soul.
The Cobras were formed in ’74, but Freeman is the only member from the original incarnation here. The CD expands the original 10″ vinyl EP from seven songs to 16 hot numbers.
“Junior” Medlow Williams proves an excellent vocalist and frontman, but this is clearly Freeman’s show. An Austin institution for 50 years, he went on to stints with Taj Mahal and Bob Dylan, in addition to recording with Austinites Jimmie Vaughan and Doyle Bramhall; backing countless blues legends in Antone’s house band and releasing a handful of stellar solo albums.
Denny’s playing has been called graceful, but the controlled chaos on tunes like Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “I Smell Trouble” is so blistering that Buddy Guy might get the shivers. Freeman’s piercing tone recalls Johnny “Guitar” Watson, with vibrato as speedy and wide as Magic Sam. Electric blues just doesn’t get much better than this.
This article originally appeared in VG’s August 2021 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.