Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Hour Of The Wolf-With Mad Monk Bluesman Howlin’ Wolf In Mind

The Hour Of The Wolf-With Mad Monk Bluesman Howlin’ Wolf In Mind 

CD Review

By Zack James

Howlin’ Wolf

Jack Callahan made his old high school corner boy from in front of Jimmy Jack’s Diner in in growing up Riverdale Seth Garth laugh one night when they were tossing down a couple of high shelf scotches, with water chasers after having just seen one James Montgomery, the famous blues harmonica player who had learned his trade at the feet of Little Walter and Junior Dean, perform at the Shell and prove once and for all that he still had “it.” That “it” not just some far-fetched idea that Seth had as an old-time music critic when he had first started out in journalism, started first when he was still in college throwing small pieces into the American Folk Gazette before he got his bigbreak with The Eye in the days when guys like Trick Stearn and Bones Bennett made names for themselves and dragged the newspaper along with them before the big ebb tide of the 1970s washed away the glad tidings of the 1960s that everybody had pinned their hopes. No this “it” had some spunk, some substance to its core and Jack had gone along with Seth on this one. See one night Jack and Seht had gone to a Big Bill Bloom concert at the Garden and had come away angry, angry that they had spent their good money on expensive tickets when Big Bill could no longer carry a tune, Back in the day that had not mattered as much because the power of his lyrics carried day. But that night he was not producing new lyrics, hadn’t done so in ages and was living off old time nostalgia from the AARP. And the fools had clapped their hands off giving him yet another false life. Jesus. Seth had written a scathing article in the prestigious American Folk Review about the event and had hell rain down on him. After that blast Seth resolved to check out as many of the old time folk and blues singers who were still standing to see if they still had “it” and let people know what was what (he did not bother to check out the old time rock and rollers that had started the great jail break-out of the 1950s since all that were left except Jerry Lee were one hit wonders who didn’t make the cut.        

So James Montgomery got his thumbs up. Funny some guys, guys like David Bromberg still had it, Jim Kweskin too but before he passed away Utah Phillips was doddering and the late Etta James was in different planet. Sad.

Now that you know the score, know what the old corner boys were up to we can get back to what Jack said that made Seth laugh. Simple he just said, “You know as good as James is Howlin’ Wolf would have had him for lunch and had time for a nap.” And of course Seth had to agree. Agree for no other reason that he and jack had been present in a little side room in Newport, at the big Folk Festival back in 1965 when the Wolf practically blew the walls of Jericho down when he played How Many More Years practically devouring the harmonica. Now the Wolf always claimed that he was not a drinking man (had taken the legendary country blues guys, his “father” to task for showing up drunk and giving the race a bad name) and wasn’t a dope fiend (his term one time when Seth interviewed him after he had come back from London after playing on an album with the Stones and Seth had joked that he probably had been stoned al the time and the Wolf looked at him with evil eyes like don’t go there sonny boy). But Seth was convinced that that whiff he smelled was not from some other workshop, the one with the white kids as Howlin’ Wolf put it (Jim Kweskin and his jug band as it turned out which was entirely possible as well). But no way that a living breathing man, a big burly hunk of a man could put that much energy, that much air, that much bloody sweat (wringing out his handkerchief drawing torrents when he was done) without some help.      

So while Seth and Jack would never know for sure whether the Wolf man was high that famous Newport afternoon they knew one thing, one laugh making thing, the Wolf would have had James Montgomery for lunch. And James still had “it.”  So you can bet six two and even the Wolf had it at the end too. If you don’t believe Seth then listen to this CD and weep for your not having been there back in the day when the Wolf mopped up the blues floor, made his bones.  

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