Otis Spann was the greatest Chicago blues pianist, from his long stint with Muddy Waters to his late-’60s recordings backed by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. In 1960, esteemed journalist Nat Hentoff produced Spann’s first solo album. Though it carried only the keyboardist’s name, it was actually a duo LP with guitarist Robert Lockwood, Jr., with each taking lead vocal on four cuts, along with two instrumentals by Spann alone. It was also the first album recorded for Candid Records out of New York City, so it’s appropriate that it’s part of the label’s relaunch.
Lockwood was expert in the fine art of backing blues harpists. Through his Chess sessions behind the blues’ two greatest harmonica players, Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson, II, he set the standard. He initially learned guitar through the man he considered his stepfather, blues legend Robert Johnson, paid homage here on “I Got Ramblin’ On My Mind #2.” But more than his Chicago contemporaries, he wove jazzy lines into his guitaring, as heard on “My Daily Wish.” His high voice on “Take A Little Walk With Me” contrasts with Spann’s grainier delivery on “Country Boy” – two giants of the blues making history.
This article originally appeared in VG’s August 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.